Dear Friends, the boy in the image above was reading the Declaration of Independence emblazoned on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial when I visited there in October 2007. He represents our future.
Keith Carradine wrote and published this song below eight years ago.
I still identify with every one of his sentiments today.
I suggest that you read these lyrics carefully then listen to this powerful song sung by people all over the United States. They would identify with his sentiments as well.
Then spend some time to reflect this weekend on the future of our children and our country and let us ask ourselves what we doing to help re-birth America.
BORN AGAIN AMERICAN By Keith Carradine
Just a workin’ man without a job It got shipped off to China via Washington, D.C. And I know I’m nothin’ special, there are plenty more like me Just the same I thought I knew the rules of the game
I stood up for this country that I love I came back from the desert to a wife and kids to feed I’m not sayin’ Uncle Sam should give me what I need My offer stands I’ll pull my weight you give me half a chance
I went up to a congressman and said to him “you know Our government is letting people down” He said he’d need a lot of help to buck the status-quo I said there was a bunch of us around
I’m a Born Again American, conceived in Liberty My Bible and the Bill of Rights, my creed’s equality I’m a Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea
My brother’s welding chassis at the plant He’s earning what our granddad did in 1948 While CEOs count bonuses behind the castle gates How can they see When all they care about’s the do re mi
It’s getting where there’s nowhere left to turn Not since the crash of twenty-nine have things been so unfair So many of our citizens are living in despair The time has come To reaffirm that hope’s not just for some
The promise of America’s surrendering to greed The rule is just look out for number one But brace yourself ‘cause some of us have sown a different seed A harvest of the spirit has begun
I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty My Bible and The Bill Of Rights My creed’s equality A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea
It’s clear my country’s soul is on the line She’s hungering for something that she lost along the way The principle the framers called upon us to obey That in this land The people’s will must have the upper hand
I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow And faithful to that vow I have remained I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now And to her cause I have been re-ordained
I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty My Bible and the Bill Of Rights, all people living free A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me And everyone who shares the dream From sea to shining sea And everyone who shares the dream From sea to shining sea A M E R I C A
This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial. The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.
As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart. Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own. Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country. What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America. But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision. We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.
It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding. And imagine what it was like. Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world. Imagine the courage they had. Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these. They are sacred because they reflected divine reality. God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson. And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.
When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words. I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 38 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing, and inspiring leadership. They are faith-based thoughts. I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world, a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society. As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have? What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?
I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS. AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
I, as a Christian among other God-fearing women and men. address You and love You as my Father. You are my Father. But this means that You are not just my Father, but the Father of all those you have created. You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will; Therefore, we are all equal in your sight. We are all persons. You conceivedand created each human being with a unique identity, a body and soul, in Your mind and heart from the very beginning and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.
I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, Father. And that makes us but sisters and brothers. Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart. Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me – a little place to call home, simple food on my table, a decent education and decent health care.
Help me, Father, to recognize and support the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own. Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs, but to realize that we are all one family. Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence; brother still kills brother. Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.
This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, heavenly Father ~
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus ~
all honor and praise and thanksgiving, now and forever.
This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live. It has ever been such since my lazy summer of ’79 in Washington and always will be. I do not expect you to use my words as you pray. I just invite you to make your own prayer. Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals. We need God in our world today. But we rely on ourselves and not on God. Capitalism, by definition, creates that illusion. I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2017. We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land. And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal, we will lose what we have and are. Great civilizations have collapsed because of their complacency before us.
Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if wepray and bind together!
Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July. Ask God for guidance. Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted. We need God to bring us through these critical times.
And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with historical images to inspire your reflection. Click here.
Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.
THE FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) ~ Sunday June 18, 2017
Today is our Roman Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe about this wonderful sacrament.
We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus — that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is an actual sharing in Divine Life, not just a symbol.
It is stumbling block for many ~ not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their lives.
And ~ um ~ I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.
As for me, it would be very hard for me to live without the holy Eucharist.
Here’s what I believe and (try to) live:
Communion means union. Closeness and intimacy with our Lord.
And with one another.
In other words, communion is love.
But do we really believe? Do we want to accept the implications of that closeness?
Do we want to be transformed by Jesus’ love?
Do we want to live in common-union with our brothers and sisters?
Do we take for granted this gift ~ for us?
It is given to us so that we might become that gift ~ for others.
So that we might become the Real Presence of Christ in the world!
A couple of years ago in the liturgical magazine Magnificat, editor Father Peter John Cameron, O. P. asked the question:
“What are we celebrating on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi?”
He suggested an answer with the amazing made-up word of J. R. R. Tolkien: eucatastrophe.
(Tolkien, you may recall, is the author of the amazing tales of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and many other fantasy stories.)
“What is “eucatastrophe?
In one of his letters, Tolkien writes:
I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made.
Just as the hero of a mythical tale is on the verge of a disastrous dead-end, with his demise looming before him, terrible and inevitable, the eucatastrophe happens:
The good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” ….. this joy is a sudden and miraculous grace …. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal defeat …., giving a fleeting glimpse of joy, joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
Tolkien considered the Incarnation as the eucatastrophe of human history, and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation.
Eucharist as eucatastrophe
On Good Friday, as the Apostle John stands before the gruesome sight of his friend scourged to a pulp and splayed out on a cross, why doesn’t he cave in despair?
Because of what John had heard the night before. The Lord’s words at the Last Supper and the Lord’s death on Calvary remain caught up with each other.
The beloved disciple refuses to regard the crucifixion as ‘a mere execution without a discernible point to it’ precisely because he lives in memory of the Eucharistic words of his redeemer: “This is my body; this is my blood given up for you.” The sacrifice in flesh and blood happening before his eyes on Golgotha, Jesus pre-enacted at the Holy Thursday Table.
The eucatastrophic words of the Eucharist enable us to see beyond the substance of scandalous failure and disgrace. What seems on the outside to be savage brutality becomes an event of total self-giving love when viewed from ‘within.’ The Eucharistic words foretell that, on Calvary, violence will be definitely transformed into love, and death into life. By the sudden joyous turn and miraculous grace of the Eucharistic words, we penetrate the act of self-giving love offered to us from the cross.
As Pope Francis says, in the encyclical The Light of Faith: ‘To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather his response is that of an accompanying presence . . . which . . . opens up a ray of light'” (# 57)
~Father John Peter Cameron, O. P. , Editor, The Magnificat
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me many times with “joy, accompanied by tears” as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray deep in my heart ~ and perhaps you can too:
Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken
and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.
As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist
may I become Your body
and Your body become mine.
May Your blood course through my own blood stream.
I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.
Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies
Let me become Your Body-broken
and Your Blood-poured-out
into a world that needs You
now more than ever.
To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
Now, before you go, here’s a hymn to go with it for your reflection. Click here.
“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted
and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim(Acts 2:1-21.)
The word for “wind” is important here. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”
“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”
The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind. The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.
The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”
I was trained in meditation to pay attention to my breathing, and I do so almost all the time, even now as I’m writing this..
I often imagine that the Holy Spirit is breath entering me, and when I exhaled, I am breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.
What a wonderful image is breath. Breath is life itself. No breath, no life in the body.
The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up as the church was born. The apostles and the others who were part of their company, including the women, were given enthusiasm. No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church. The Acts of the Apostles is in effect the gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, a story that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other, so much discord, so much disharmony.
The story has God confusing the languages of people at Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.
On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened. People were gathered together. Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.
On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was the day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.
I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:
“I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
Even upon the servants and handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28,29)
Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council. There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church. Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.
The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first full three years of my priesthood. The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day as me.
Nine years later, the opposite happened. My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:” See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again. Breathe into these slain, O Spirit that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)
That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church The Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way!
~ ~ ~ ~
There is still another thing to note from the Pentecost story. Tongues of fire rested individually on the heads of each person. The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us. The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one.
So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things!
The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.
“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the sameLord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.” I Cor. 12
In the seminary I learned to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before each class. And for me it was a powerful devotion. I realized that the work I produced was more than the sum of its parts. I realize that that is still true some 47 years later. If we seek and cooperate with God’s grace, wonderful things can and will happen that are so far beyond what we ever imagine!
The Holy Spirit can make that happen in your life, in your children’s lives, and in mine too.
This Pentecost 2017, with all that is happening in our country, in our world and in the church, may we clearly see our need for the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry. Without the Spirit, there is no meaning. Without meaning, there is no reason to live.
The lesson I relearned as I wrote this reflection is that to seek the Spirit’s involvement in our work is to refuse to settle for mediocrity. As we get older, we may not have the energy of our youth to go for the brass ring, but we still can regainenthusiasm as we go about our work.
The Spirit of God is as close to us as our own breath. I have trained myself to become conscious of my breathing throughout my day. So too can we train ourselves to be conscious of the Holy Spirit from moment to moment, especially in making decisions and beginning your projects at work or artistic endeavors.
May we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
May it be so. May it be so.
Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Mass . . .
Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home Shed a ray of light divine! Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine. You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest; Sweet refreshment here below; In our labor, rest most sweet; Grateful coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe. O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours, And our inmost being fill! Where you are not, we have naught, Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing free from taint of ill. Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray. On the faithful, who adore And confess you, evermore In your sevenfold gift descend; Give them virtue’s sure reward; Give them your salvation, Lord; Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
And before you go, here is a new song that I found about the Holy Spirit that I liked. Click here.
And if you have time, here also is the haunting chant melody “Veni Creator Spiritus” and the English “Come Holy Ghost.” Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. There are many images of Pentecost in art displayed there.