Thursday, January 20, 2011

Approach God Through Him

January 20, 2011
Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. Hebrews 7:25-26

He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God." He warned them sternly not to make him known. Mark 3:10-12

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! Isaiah 58:6-9

Fifty years ago today, on January 20, 1961, the first (and only) American Catholic President was inaugurated on the snowy, cold steps of the Capitol building. Rather than retreat from his faith, the speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy moments after being sworn in to office, was rich in imagery of faith, allusions to critical Biblical passages, and put into action the words of Christians in terms which all people could identify.

President Kennedy began by acknowledging that “…[T]he rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” With those rights, he intoned certain responsibilities. As we read about Jesus today in the Good News from Mark, He walked and preached and cured because it was the right thing to do. JFK inspired those who heard his message also to be moved to action.

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

As a nation, we continue to recoil from gun violence which claimed his life less than three years later. Such civility also would have gone a long way two thousand years earlier as people rejected Jesus and His teachings. President Kennedy’s call for “civility” with each other continues to ring in our ears and on the pages of our history books.

The JFK Inaugural Address was not merely a political speech. His speech was a call to action echoing passages from Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Romans (“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13).

As we contemplate our Christian action, recall the closing words from this historic address that January day in 1961:

So let us begin anew…My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

How are you making God’s work on earth today truly your own?