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Papa Francis The First | His Holiness Papa Francisco

Do Your Duty...

I have been called to jury duty this week. It’s the second time in five years, which seems like an adequate waiting time between duties, but my last stint went on for 4 weeks, which definitely cramped my work/lifestyle. Though the call leads to initial feelings of being “too busy” to do this, seeing deadlines suddenly shorten, and needing to rearrange previous plans, suddenly—in light of the recent tragic events in Paris—it seems important to fulfill this duty.

I see jury duty as an opportunity to participate in a society underscored by the rule of law, which gives me a certain feeling of security in this troubled world. While not perfect, as nothing created by human beings in the midst of this chaotic, changing world tends to be, it is a premise that has stood the test of time, and resulted in a generally stable society. It is definitely better than a set of beliefs passed on by a fanatical group.

I was intrigued to read a reflection by Kathy Hendricks in the January issue of Give Us This Day, a monthly publication from Liturgical Press. Reflecting on the account in Mark 6:45-52, after the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples’ storm-tossed boat, Hendricks notes the disciples’ reaction to these events—“their hearts were hardened.” She likens “hardened,” a curious phrase nowadays, to the more contemporary concept of being “hardwired,” thus “unable to see things in a different way,” and therefore unable to mentally process what they had just witnessed.

We see the effects of hardwiring all around us today, not only in Paris, but killings all around the world. It struck me that these killings result from a kind of hardwiring that has no place in a modern, diverse society, a society that seeks to tolerate and even encourage differing religious, political, and personal beliefs. It seems to me that, if we are to survive, the only hardwiring that should be encouraged is that of the rule of law, which brings me back to serving jury duty.

A case I served on five years ago involved patent infringement. The jury was educated in excruciating detail about the process of jet engine blade burnishing and the sorry tale of one firm’s salesman who left the firm, then proceeded to share too many trade secrets with a new, competing employer. I came away not only with a new appreciation of the care taken to ensure the safety of plane travel but also with respect for the care of an educated, intelligent jury in weighing the allegations against the germane law.

Properly applied by an informed and impartial jury, the rule of law slows the rush to judgment precipitated by other hardwiring. The law can and does change with the times, whereas hardwiring imposed by a particular set of beliefs may or may not. I cannot argue with another person’s hardwiring, whether religious, political, or financial, but it seems to me the only way beyond deadly clashes of individual hardwiring is submitting to another, mutually agreed-upon hardwiring, the rule of law.

And so, this week, I’ll do my duty as a citizen to attend jury duty. If seated on a jury, I will do my best to uphold the hardwiring which holds our society together.

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Photo: Dana S. Rothstein/PhotoXpress

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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."