A lot going on as we get back to routine after what I trust was a good summer, as we re-open school and so many parish programs, and as we wish our Jewish neighbors the happiest of their holy days.
Three things I especially wanted to mention to you:
For one, we’re all worried about the perilous situation in Syria and the entire tortured region of the Middle East.
You may have heard that on Sunday, at his noon Angelus address and blessing to the tens-of-thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis firmly and soundly condemned the use of gas and chemical warfare, recently and brutally unleashed in Syria, but also cautioned against any escalation in force or weaponry that would only exacerbate the already volatile situation.
When we believers are frustrated, impatient, and “don’t know what to do,” – - and we are “all of the above” when it comes to the continued turmoil in the ancient lands of the Mideast – - we pray. That’s what the Holy Father has asked us all to do this weekend.
Our prayers are with our President and Congress as they consider the appropriate American response. Lord knows, as the world’s major power, we do indeed have a duty to remind the nations, cogently if necessary, that certain lines of civil and inhumane behavior cannot be tolerated in the community of nations.
Of the many sane and compelling voices heard on this horror, you will not be surprised that I pay special attention to those of religious leaders, particularly the weary and anxious, yet brave pleas of the tiny, persecuted, bloodied, threatened, venerable Christian communities in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. They are there, right in the midst of it, poisoned by the gas, singed by the flames, shredded by the bombs, wounded by the guns. Just what to do they humbly admit they do not exactly know; but they sure are united on what not to do: please, they beg, no more bombs, no more arms, no more invasions, no more violent reaction. They deserve to be heard!
The Holy See’s ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, will offer the 5:30 p.m. Mass Saturday evening at the cathedral for this intention. In response to the request of Pope Francis, I wish all our Catholic people to abstain from meat this Friday, and add this intention to their prayers at Sunday Mass.
Two, while we will indeed heed the Holy Father’s invitation to keep this Sabbath as a World Day of Prayer for peace in the Middle East, we’ll also keep our plans to pray as well for fair and comprehensive immigration reform. Our senate has already passed a good bill. Perfect? No. A lot better than what we now have? Yes! And now we ask the Lord – - who has told us in the Bible that He has a soft spot in His heart for the immigrant and refugee – - to illuminate the House of Representatives so they can bring home the reform this autumn.
Three, we prepare for our vote in the mayoral primary next Tuesday. We thank God for the generous spirit of our candidates in answering the call to public service, and we study the pressing issues so we can make an informed and enlightened vote.
Traditionally, we Americans consider not only issues, but character when we vote. While we hardly expect our candidates to be angels – - Lord knows none of us are! – - we do want them to be men and women of honor, integrity, principle, and, yes, virtue.
We Americans follow the political philosophy of thinkers such as Aristotle and Plato, mirrored in our own historically revered public servants, that politics is a noble vocation, that those who aspire to office can be expected to set a good example, to keep their word, their promises, their vows and oaths, and comport themselves with decency and propriety. Yes, they do fail – - as do we religious leaders on occasion, I’m afraid – - but we still keep trying.
Recently, a mom asked “Who can our kids look up to? Hollywood, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, clergy, and politicians are no longer good examples we can hold up for our children.”
That’s worrisome, isn’t it? Jesus told His followers – - that’s us! – - that “I expect more out of you.” Our guide is not what’s chic, pragmatic, “cool,” or popular, but what’s good, honorable, noble, decent, and virtuous.
The cynics claim “We deserve the leaders we get.” Is it still possible to hope we get leaders whom we can hold up as examples for our children?
God bless and inspire our candidates!
God bless and guide us as we vote!