Reflection for Sunday – November 13, 2016

Readings: Malachi 3: 19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21: 5-19
Preacher: Jamie Fazio

How did we get to a place where so many citizens are afraid for their personal safety, well-being and future? Regardless of who you voted for on Tuesday, these fears are real, based in past hurts and experiences of discrimination and hate. People are terrified and they have reason to be. Those of us who have protection of being from the majority have a privileged response to the rhetoric that plagued this election. For many of our sisters and brothers, the rhetoric has opened wounds of assault, exclusion and rejection.

What are we as followers of Jesus to do? Well, if Jesus were walking among us today, his disciples would not be those from the elite of either political party. Instead, he would be living and walking among those who feel abandoned by society and the structures that failed to care for all of its citizens. As Christians we are always called to go to aid of those who are suffering. Our readings today are timely as they offer us insight into the events of this week. They offer us hope in times of fear and uncertainty. They remind us of the promise of God’s justice in times of darkness. They also challenge us on how to move forward.

In our first reading, the prophet Malachi reminds us that those who trust in God will be protected and healed by God’s justice even in the face of great adversity and uncertainty:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.

Malachi’s words speak as loudly today as they did thousands of years ago when they were written. Over the months of campaigning we have seen instance after instance where hateful and violent speech was accepted unapologetically into the public discourse as something that counters “political correctness.” I cannot even begin to logically reflect on this position, because it defies all logic. What these months have revealed for us is that a very deep division exists in our country. A division that is rooted in fear and fed by hate.

Our country was founded on the understanding that greatness is rooted in goodness. Are we not the country of “liberty and justice for all?” There is however a disconnect between the values we aspire to uphold and the lived experience of many of our neighbors. We are a country with a rapacious history of slavery, sexism, discrimination and violence. We have used law to exclude others from the very values that are supposed to make us great as a nation.

• What is greatness? What makes a nation great?
• Does great refer to power? Wealth? Social status?
• Or does “great” refer to how a nation serves? Advocates for justice? Cares for its weakest members? Includes all people?

When Pope Francis made his pastoral visit to the United States he addressed this question of greatness when he addressed a joint session of Congress. In his address he invited us to reflect on four fellow Americans who could serve as inspiration to how to achieve greatness. Francis said:

“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and
sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”

In the weeks and months ahead let us pray for the intercession of these four Americans. A president who united a divided country at war; a preacher who led a nonviolent revolution for equality; a lay women who inspired thousands of others to serve those who society had forgotten to love; and a monk who engaged the diversity of the world through interfaith dialogue. May their examples in the face of current adversity inspire us to action and service.

We were founded as a country where people came to find a better life for themselves and their families because they saw the United States as a country built on providing equity for all of its citizens. We cannot move away from the foundational principles that are stated in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We may be divided by our political affiliations, but we are united by the bound of our common baptism. Consequently, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that America is great for everyone. We have an opportunity today. We have the opportunity to recommit ourselves to personally be involved to bring an end to this historical pattern of exclusion, discrimination and hate. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Jamie Fazio
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