History and Witnesses

Today is a historic day in American history. Our first African-American President has been inaugurated, and holds the highest office under our Constitution. Washington was filled with over a million people who wished to witness this great event.

At noon today, as prescribed in the 20th Amendment of the Constitution, the Oath of Office was administered, and the peaceful transition of authority was seamlessly completed. Every time this happens, we Americans should be in awe of the majesty of our constitutional system, and the commitment of our nation to the rule of law.

I missed the big event, because there was an even more important event taking place that I had to attend. It really wasn’t that difficult choice to make. The regular 12:10 Mass was about to begin, and I didn’t want to be late (as I all too often am). I wanted to witness the King of Kings arrive, and to receive Him into my life. Now that’s an awe-inspiring event.

And, as so often happens, the Church in her wisdom threw a small lesson my way today. Frequently, these lessons come the way the Lord came to Elijah, in the small whispering sound that is all too easily missed in the fretting and busyness of everyday life.

Today is the feast day of two martyrs of the early Church, Fabian and Sebastian. They too were witnesses of great events — in their case, to the persecution of the Church by the Roman authorities. They gave the ultimate witness — that is what the word “martyr” actually means in Greek — by sacrificing their lives for the Lord.

The opening prayer struck home to me today, on a day when all eyes were directed to the seat of political power in our nation, and indeed in our world. Here’s what it said:

Lord, fill us with that spirit of courage which gave your martyr Sebastian strength to offer his life in faithful witness. Help us to learn from him to cherish your law and to obey you rather than men.

We do indeed need to be reminded of the priorities of life. Yes, today is an important day in the history of our nation. But every day, we should pray to our Lord that we may be His witnesses, and that we may “cherish your law and to obey you rather than men”. He is, after all, the real ruler of the world, both now and forever, not the men whose time on the stage passes so quickly into history.

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