“Love one another.” (John 13:34)
This pivotal verse from the 13th chapter of John’s gospel is the theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 2nd. It is an especially fitting theme at this moment in time in our nation, when our political differences threaten to tear our country apart at the seams. It’s a theme that is the very heart of Christianity, the central commandment that Christ gave to his disciples and followers—to love.
But what is love? In these days of confusion, when many feel entitled to their own truths, it is critical to define our terms. The Christian definition of love is to will the good of the other. This often means that we uphold beliefs that are not only deeply unpopular, but are even considered “hateful” and “bigoted”. Nevertheless, we sincerely believe that true love requires that we uphold them for the ultimate good of everyone. Simply put, if we believe that our beliefs are the Truth, then they are not merely true just for Christians but for all people.
While Christians must be unwavering in our belief of the Truth, we also must be pragmatic and reasonable in our relationships with non-believers and our political opponents. How do we even begin to go about convincing the world of the Truth? The beautiful thing about Christianity is that convincing people through our words and actions is only one tool we have in our arsenal. In the faith life, it quickly becomes clear that successfully evangelizing others is far beyond our own power. In reality, the most effective tool of evangelization is prayer (1 John 5:14). But too often, we Christians de-emphasize prayer in favor of what seems like more direct action, like shouting from the rooftops of social media.
Sometimes it takes the wisdom of children to remind us of the fundamental importance of prayer. Take Jack, a 9-year-old boy from New York. After Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted the most extreme state abortion expansion bill in the country in his home state, Jack decided he wanted to do something about it. With the help of his father, he started the website ConvertCuomo, which asks believers to commit to pray for Gov. Cuomo’s conversion by submitting a prayer pledge on the site.
For Jack, who comes from a strong Catholic upbringing, the “ConvertCuomo” project was an especially personal one. Gov. Cuomo, who is himself Catholic, went so far as to order One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit up in pink in order to celebrate his signing into law of the most radical state abortion expansion bill ever to be enacted in the U.S. “My mom and dad told me that he passed this bill and other things and it made me really upset,” Jack said. “So I wanted to think of something to do to stop abortion.”
As Jack recognizes, it is especially important to pray for those in authority like Gov. Cuomo who claim to be Catholic yet strongly support policies that his own faith teaches is a “grave offense” against moral law.
“I pray two Our Fathers for Governor Cuomo every day,” Jack says, “sometimes three.”
Jack is keying in on an important truth for believers. If we want our political opponents and non-believers to have personal conversions of heart, praying for their conversion is the most loving thing we can do for them.