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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

02 March 2015


Daniel 9
4“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and show mercy toward those who love you and keep your commandments and your precepts! 5We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and turned from your commandments and your laws. 6We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and all the people of the land. 7Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the lands to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. 8O LORD, we are ashamed, like our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, for having sinned against you. 9But to the Lord, our God, belong compassion and forgiveness, though we rebelled against him 10and did not hear the voice of the LORD, our God, by walking in his laws given through his servants the prophets.
Gaudium et Spes
9.b. Since all these things are so, the modern world shows itself at once powerful and weak, capable of the noblest deeds or the foulest; before it lies the path to freedom or to slavery, to progress or retreat, to brotherhood or hatred. Moreover, man is becoming aware that it is his responsibility to guide aright the forces which he has unleashed and which can enslave him or minister to him. That is why he is putting questions to himself.
10. The truth is that the imbalances under which the modern world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. For in man himself many elements wrestle with one another. Thus, on the one hand, as a creature he experiences his limitations in a multitude of ways; on the other he feels himself to be boundless in his desires and summoned to a higher life. Pulled by manifold attractions he is constantly forced to choose among them and renounce some. Indeed, as a weak and sinful being, he often does what he would not, and fails to do what he would.(1) Hence he suffers from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society. No doubt many whose lives are infected with a practical materialism are blinded against any sharp insight into this kind of dramatic situation; or else, weighed down by unhappiness they are prevented from giving the matter any thought. Thinking they have found serenity in an interpretation of reality everywhere proposed these days, many look forward to a genuine and total emancipation of humanity wrought solely by human effort; they are convinced that the future rule of man over the earth will satisfy every desire of his heart. Nor are there lacking men who despair of any meaning to life and praise the boldness of those who think that human existence is devoid of any inherent significance and strive to confer a total meaning on it by their own ingenuity alone.
Nevertheless, in the face of the modern development of the world, the number constantly swells of the people who raise the most basic questions or recognize them with a new sharpness: what is man? What is this sense of sorrow, of evil, of death, which continues to exist despite so much progress? What purpose have these victories purchased at so high a cost? What can man offer to society, what can he expect from it? What follows this earthly life?
The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all,(2) can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved.(3) She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.(4) Hence under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature,(5) the council wishes to speak to all men in order to shed light on the mystery of man and to cooperate in finding the solution to the outstanding problems of our time.
The passage from Gaudium et Spes if from SAT Office
and the passage from Daniel is from today's Mass.
The point of this great text (Gaudium) is to highlight the critical issues that we face in this modern world and to propose a solution.  In retrospect, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were very perceptive about the challenges of modern times and, interestingly, these issues remain relevant for us some fifty years later.  So does the solution!
We have lost touch with the reality of what the Church offers for the good of all.   Daniel's passage proclaims the great mercy of the LORD despite us not understanding and following the important Covenant of the LORD with His people.   Of course the key issue is that we must recognize our error and admit that we have sinned - we have turned our backs on the grace and love of our Divine Creator.

 In the United States today, more that ever before, we emphasize the individual rights of people: their individuality, their uniqueness, their diversity.  While understanding the diversity of our nation is good, when taken to the extreme, as has been done, it reveals just how inward and selfish our society has become.  When rights are emphasized above all other things, folks individual rights become more important than others situations and bitter conflict results.  Recently, this conflict has been apparent in our major cities between certain populations and law enforcement.  Each person is so worried about their own rights, but ignores the discussion of taking responsibility for what is required to maintain those rights.
When we understand that God is asking of us, we realize that we must emphasize Community above all other things, i.e., how we are alike, how we care for each other, how we serve each other, how we bring our own unique traits to care for each other.  We become "other" centered and focus on our responsibilities for each other and our own personal responsibility to make the community work better. 
Both the Fathers of the Vatican Council and Daniel before them understood this important distinction.  In the passages opening this reflection, they have outlined for us the statement of the problem and simply suggested a better way to proceed.
Today, our "leaders" can't seem to even find a way to work together because everyone is so committed on pressing their personal agenda that they don't or won't take the time to even listen to the other persons views.  Too often this agenda is preserving their position in government and related in no way to actually serving the population who elected them to office in the first place.  Segments of society pit themselves against other segments and proclaim their rights and won't even discuss how to get along.  What a perversion of the original idea upon which this country was founded! 

We have proclaimed diversity so much that we have forgotten the richness of cooperating with others to use the best of our diversity to create a society that takes care of all to the exclusion of none.  Our Faith proclaims that we must learn to live in community by sacrificing our individual rights to the benefit of others.  When we do that, I believe that we actually enhance the rights and freedom of all because we understand that when we take responsibility for all we protect all -- and there is great freedom in that.  How do we broadcast this message in such a way that all who have chosen not to cooperate in this great experiment we call the United States will change?  That is the key question for our time.

Unfortunately the concept of "melting pot" that was part of my early schooling has been set aside for "individual rights".  When one considers what happens when one makes a stew, the real idea of "melting pot" is realized.  All of the unique flavors of all of the things that one puts into the stew creates a wonderful, savory recipe for success: the uniqueness of the individual ingredient is given for the betterment of the whole.  The process doesn't deny the diversity of the ingredients, but it combines them into something much better that each ingredient could never be by itself.  So does our society work this way when it is working properly.  It is time to return to this concept of our system.  So, we invite the diversity of the world in to improve our flavor, rather than refuse them or return them to the storage bin.

If we continue to emphasize our differences to the exclusion of community, we will see this nation fall to ruin.  If folks continue their selfish pursuit of things of this world, then we stay on the slide into oblivion.  I still hope and believe that it's not too late for this country to find its way out of this mess that we gotten ourselves into.  To break this progression, all citizens must take the responsibility to create a better society.  They must demand that their "leaders" work together for the common good - something that hasn't been done for some time now.  Folks must go to the polls in droves to vote.  Folks must strenuously express their dissatisfaction with the current campaign strategy of shouting, yelling, and denigrating everyone who doesn't believe in lock step with the candidate.  We must have a civil discussion of our problems and work together for solutions.  But only when the general population says "Enough!" will any of this change happen.  Now is the time to begin the process in preparation for the 2016 Presidential elections.

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