Tomorrow, we will inaugurate the 46th President of the United States of America—Joseph R. Biden, Jr . . . .
Some folks are rejoicing in his victory, while others were contesting his election to the point that many stormed the United States Capitol building to stop the solemn process of certifying the electoral college votes. They were protesting that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and horrifying damage was done to the Capitol building and they threatened the very lives of Senators and Representatives. Much of this was instigated by a far-right organization called QAnon, who it seems was winning the influence of the president even in his phone calls to election officials in Georgia and the disruptors at the Capitol.
And because of that, much of the city of Washington is even now lockdown mode for fear of further violence. The image you see above with thousands of people at a previous inauguration won’t be repeated for Mr. Biden’s tomorrow for two reasons.
First, Mr. Biden, unlike his predecessor, does not want to draw large crowds because of the pandemic and become a super-spreadder of the virus. And secondly, because the FBI and the District police have been warned of the possibility of further violence. The inauguration itself and all of its festivities will be live-streamed with very few in live attendance.
So, I’ve musing about what his inaugural address might be like. In addition to giving us a glimpse of his agenda, I’m sure he’ll make an effort to bring our nation together.
I came across some ideas while reading the alumni magazine of my seminary—Theological College of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. from the spiritual writer Megan McKenna . . .
Every time we bring hope into a situation, every time we bring joy that shatters despair, every time we forgive others, and give them back their dignity, every time we listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time we speak the truth in public, every time we confront injustice, we are practicing resurrection. (Resurrection is about bringing new life where there’s decay or listlessness or despair.)
I expect to hear words such as these in Joe Biden’s inaugural address tomorrow. He’s already shown that this is the kind of man he is. Joe has had to face personal tragedy in his life in the car accident that killed his first wife. On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election to the Senate, Biden’s wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Neilia’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailor as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries.
And then he lost his son Beau who was the highly successful State Attorney for Delaware to cancer in 2015. But it only made Joe Biden more empathetic. He became sought out to deliver eulogies for Democrat and Republican leaders, and no leaders, all across the country. That’s the kind of president we are about to have for as long as God will allow us to have him. He’ll be the age that Pope Francis is now at the end of his term ~ 82 ~ and Francis is still going strong!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear words such as this—healing words, words of hope, inspiring words, uplifting words, from the next President of the United States? That he would be able to listen?
Perhaps we will. I hope and pray we will. (I was surprised when Ms. McKenna asked to become friends with me on Facebook.)
One of the roles of a president is to inspire the people of the country. Yes, to bring about resurrection. To show us the way forward. To offer hope. To bring life!
It is up to the President to lead us in the work of healing. Should it not be one of his first orders of business to bring us together? To reach out to those with whom he disagrees and be magnanimous? To bring us together again to be a president for all Americans—whites and blacks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women, the poor and the rich; Latinos, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so many more?
I must say I’ve already been inspired by the men and women he has selected for his team. I just hope that Congress and the Senate will work with him for the good of the country and the world.
Joe Biden has remained a devout Catholic all of his life, going to Mass most Sundays, taking his children when they were young, often seen with his rosary beads wrapped around his fingers. Some Catholics, including friends of mine, condemn him for receiving holy communion because of his liberal stand on abortion, though his bishop Francis Malooly of Delaware is supportive of him. (Malooly and I were in the seminary together and I pray for him whenever I celebrate Mass.) Some other bishops and priests have actually refused communion to Joe when he came up to them in the communion line ~ something that Jesus would never do! The National Catholic Reporter noted that it has been exactly 60 years since we had the last Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
I’d also like to add a couple of program notes about Mr. Biden’s inauguration. He hasn’t chosen a cardinal, like the one who will be his pastor in Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, but a long-term friend, Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation.
The priest, a friend of the Biden family, was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass for Biden’s son Beau in 2015 at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, Delaware.
And he will also have a five-minute poem read. Only three other presidents have done so.
Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, will be making history during the inaugural ceremony.
“The poem isn’t blind. It isn’t turning your back to the evidence of discord and division,” she said, though the poem will still focus on unity and hope — two points the Biden inaugural team asked the young poet to expand on.
Gorman, who’s Black and grew up in Los Angeles is a graduate of Harvard University and became the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She was handpicked by incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and will be just the sixth poet to read a piece at an inauguration, according to the Academy of American Poets.
According to the literary organization, only three presidents have had a poet read at their swearing-in ceremony: President John Kennedy in 1961, President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, and President Barack Obama 2009 and 2013. Gorman will add her name to that list, which includes Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Robert Frost.
So, let’s sum up then. . . .
From St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians for all of us . . . .
Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.
Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.
Then God’s peace which is beyond all understanding, will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, Brothers and Sisters, your thought should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.
Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do.
Then will the God of peace be with you. (Phil. 4:6-9)
And now my prayer . . . .
Almighty God, Creator of the Universe,
We thank you for the 241 years we have been a strong, vibrant country.
We’ve been through wars—one that almost sundered our own land, and many of our young have fallen so that we could be free.
We’ve been through droughts and depressions, hurricanes, and all sorts of tests to our national will and just now the desecration of our own Capitol sanctioned by our very own leaders in an act of insurrection; but we’re still more or less in one piece, dear God.
And now, we come to another moment of transition of power in our land.
Almighty God, we ask your blessing on Joseph R Biden, Jr. and Kamala Harris as they assume their office tomorrow..
Please open them to your guidance.
Send upon them your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Wisdom,
the Spirit of justice, peace, and unity for all in our land.
And finally, dear God, we ask your blessing on all the peoples of our great country,
from east to west, from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours!
And finally, dear Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris . . .
The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace! ~
And please grant Donald J. Trump and his family peace as well.
And now, before you go, here’s a thrilling version of ‘God Bless America’ by Whitney Houston Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.