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Salt and Light A prayer and reflection for after the election

Pope Francis reminds us that in the Gospel of Matthew we are called to be “salt of the earth and light of the world.” Here is part of the Pope’s message to us:

“Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices, may you be a positive force, salt and light for this society. Like the engine of a train, may you be the driving force leading all towards their destination. May you be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony.” - Pope Francis, Message during Apostolic Journey, April 29, 2017

How are we each called to be “salt and light”? What does it look like to be “builders of bridges” and “agents of dialogue,” especially in a post-election atmosphere where vitriol and personal attacks have become more common? How do Pope Francis’ words challenge us to engage in public life differently? Through prayer and reflection, formed consciences and civil dialogue, we can bring the convictions of our faith to our participation in civic life. For the next 20-30 minutes, use this prayer, reflection and examen to help you think about where God is calling you to be “salt and light” during this challenging time of division in our country.

Slowly read Matthew 5:2,13-16 on the call to be salt and light:

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He began to teach them, saying: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

As “salt and light” we are called to speak truth with love and bear witness to God’s love in our world. Salt is both common across the world’s cultures and gives flavor to any food it touches. Our presence, like salt to food, enhances and strengthens our communities, especially where we can serve as witnesses of love and civility.

Let God be present with you through this Prayer for Life and Dignity of the Human Person

God of all life,

Help us to appreciate the great gift that is human life formed in your image, a reflection of your holiness.

Help us to recognize you in all whom you have created: children not yet born, families affected by poverty and war, people of different abilities, people from other lands, and all who are victims of hatred and racism.

Help us to bear witness to the dignity of all whom you have created, regardless of stage of life, or wealth, or ability, or color, or creed, for every person is fully equal in your loving eyes.

Share with us your holy knowledge that we are all your children, each bestowed with inherent dignity.

May your justice reign forever!

Amen.

Now spend some time in prayerful reflection on each of the questions in this examen:

1. Where have I engaged or disengaged in the political process during this past election? What has drawn me towards or away from engagement?

2. What issues or injustices have I felt drawn to work on in my community? What stories from my community, from media or from my own experience have left an impression on me and led me to ask, “What can I do to change this?” Where have I been called to action?

3. When have I allowed my strong feelings about an issue or injustice cause me to say or think something unkind about another person? Specifically, on social media: When has my engagement with (or about) those with whom I disagree failed to recognize their dignity as persons created in the image of God?

4. In conversations, when was I so focused on winning an argument that I failed to genuinely listen? When was my choice of words uncharitable? When did I paint others in disrespectful ways or engage in personal attack?

5. In my day-to-day perceptions and attitudes, when have I made assumptions about or failed to give the benefit of the doubt to those with whom I disagree? When have I presumed others’ intentions or experiences before even hearing their stories or experiences? When have I valued my political affiliation or party more than my identity as a disciple of Christ who is called to model love and charity, even in civil discourse?

6. How is Christ calling me to strive to recognize the human dignity of someone with whom I disagree—even passionately?

Close with a few moments of prayer and conversation with God about how you might be called to be “salt and light” in your family, with your friends or with other members of your community.

We exist in a culture of incivility and inaction, but as followers of Christ we must work to transform that culture. We can be models of loving and respectful civil discourse, and challenge others to do the same. Salt, while common, is not a passive ingredient. Nor must we be passive participants in difficult conversations. In working to transform our culture, we can choose to be strong in our convictions while also open to learning more from others’ experiences.

Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: A Prayer for Civility

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where uncivil words prevail, show me how to model love.

Help me remember the God-given dignity of all and invite others to do the same.

Show me how to build bridges and not walls and see first what unites us rather than how we diverge.

Let me seek to understand before asking to be understood.

Give me a listening heart filled with empathy and compassion.

May I be clear in sharing my own position and respectful and civil in describing those of others.

Let me never tolerate hateful ideas.

May I invite all to charity and love.

Lord, help me to imitate your compassion and mercy.

Make me an instrument of your peace.

Amen.

Here is a song to conclude this reflective prayer:

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This prayer is based on an Examination of Conscience from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops at their civilizeit.org website. Copyright © 2019, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. This text may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration for nonprofit educational use, provided such reprints are not sold and include this notice. Find this pledge and other resources and prayers at civilizeit.org.