My friends, we live in a time of COVID 19, and its stronger variant, Delta, climate change that has blasted the west with more and more deadly fires, and the coastal states with ever greater storms—more frequent and with ever more deadly amounts of rainfall. In the middle states, especially in farming country, the breadbasket, we might say, of our nation, droughts have been prolonged. What to do?
Then, there is the political climate in this, seemingly, “great” country of ours that equals, if not “trumps” the seriousness of the changes in the environmental climate named above. Rather than doing what is best for the greatest amount of the people, some, too many, so-called “legislators” choose what is best for themselves and what they think their constituents want to hear, so as to benefit their own re-elections, successfully doing nothing to address current problems plaguing our country.
The fact that 24 attorneys general would file a suit against our president objecting to his call that large companies mandate vaccinations as a way to curb and slow and hopefully end a virus growing ever stronger, filling many hospitals to beyond capacity, so as to take all room from those with day-to-day medical needs, is to me, simply appalling. What to do?
Then, there is, since the time of our previous president, the equally devastating phenomenon of an ideology that appeals to the primarily selfish instincts of many within our country—those who don’t want their “freedoms” curbed in any way and who see our country as, “first, best, and great” among all others.
I believe I can speak with a bit of authority on the ideology of the previous president that became the mantra of too many in our country because it has majorly infected many in my family of origin to the point that discussion within that group is next to impossible.
And within our Catholic church—are we any better? Those of you here last week will recall the discussion after the homily where one of you raised the issue of our Catholic belief, as expressed in the Gloria, that our brother Jesus is the “first born of the Creator,” asking, “Do we know that to be so, that Jesus was ‘first,’ or is that just our basic need to think so?”
A good discussion followed, and I believe, for the most part, we agreed that we don’t know, and a further consideration might be, does it really matter, or is it simply more important that Jesus did in fact come, to be one of us? To Christians, the fact that Jesus did come, has made all the difference, just like Buddha and his teachings to his followers, and the belief in the Great Spirit for Indigenous People, and so on—each helping their followers to live their humanity to its fullest.
But probably the most puzzling to me has been to witness some within religious groups who have taken to following this selfish, mean-spirited ideology of our former president, giving it a new face to justify it, and even suggesting this ideology as the voice of a “new messiah.” In this, I go back to Jesus’ words, “By their fruits, you will know them.” If the words of anyone do nothing but separate people, then perhaps, we should question their authenticity.
And that brings us to today’s readings. Wisdom literature presents us with a bit of foreshadowing of what to expect when we object to others not living for the good of all. The most obvious case in point—getting vaccinated against COVID. Objecting to the behavior of another is always a very tenuous thing to begin with and one I think most of us take on with a bit of trepidation. Only when the stakes seem high enough, or are about a serious moral concern, do we take the chance within relationships, whether family or friends.
The Wisdom writer tells us how it might go: “Let us set a trap for the just, who greatly annoy us by opposing what we do.”
James, in the second reading, instructs us, “to pray for what you want,” but beware, “If you do not get [it], it is because you have not prayed properly.” In terms that perhaps we can better understand, it might be good to say that our prayer might not have been pure or done for the right reasons.
With regard to COVID and people getting vaccinated, I have found myself thinking that the only way that the “anti-vaccination people will ever be convinced is if in fact they do get sick, but I have stopped short of praying for this. This fact has happened though within hospitals and been reported that unvaccinated people, on their death beds have begged for the vaccination, because now, they understand! This is such, “crazymaking” stuff!
Our brother Jesus, in today’s gospel gives an added piece, I believe, as we live, move, and pray, and be part of our world. He says, “If you would be first, [main object in a few of the apostles’ minds today] you must be last.” I read this, connecting with James’ thought, that all we do should be for the highest purpose and motive –or, as we always say here, do the most loving thing, above all. Does that answer adequately or even, at all, the questions I have raised here today? Probably not, but maybe it is a help for each of us to refocus our efforts, especially when the “crazy-making” times come. Amen? Amen!