Fr. Glenn: Do Unto Others…

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

Everyone be safe this week; most of LA county is in “exceptional” drought condition and we sure don’t need any fires to mar the holiday (or at any time, for that matter!). Save the little poppy and sparky things for the New Year, or at least ‘til we get a good rain. We’re heading into the monsoon season, so hopefully we’ll get a bit before long. Keep on a’prayin’!

Well, we celebrate Independence Day this week, and it’s always a time for reflection and thanksgiving. Lots of contentious politics in the air this year … but isn’t there always? A lot of name-calling, though, which is unfortunate … and unproductive. Screeching and shouting down is perceived as the desperate attempt to avoid reasoned challenge to one’s own position.

It’s always interesting to observe the political milieu and debate from as an objective a view as possible. When you get old enough and have witnessed the cyclic nature of politics, you more and more understand the feeling of the author of Ecclesiastes: “That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been … there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 1:9). 

Similarly, I can’t help but chuckle when I read about it being the “end” of one or other of the major political parties; that tends to happen whenever one of the parties is in political ascendancy. We can just look at history since WWII: Truman (Dem) to Ike (Rep) to JFK/LBJ (Dem) to Nixon/Ford (Rep) to Carter (Dem) to Reagan/Bush 41 (Rep) to Clinton (Dem) to Bush 43 (Rep) to Obama (Dem) to Trump (Rep). Nope; no pattern there! And the pendulum swings…

The U.S. is sort of like a somewhat dysfunctional family … which seems to function pretty successfully regardless. We berate, scream and holler at each other, but when in the end, we tend to be united in many ways. That we HAVE the freedom to berate, scream and holler is one of the great characteristics of our form of government, and in the end helps direct the nation toward the greater good over time. There will always be room for improvement (sometimes a LOT of improvement), but since each of us has faults in ourselves and has room for personal improvement, how can we expect perfection of a nation governed by our imperfect selves?

Plato in his “The Republic” promotes (though some say he was being ironic) the concept of the ideal ruler—the wise philosopher-king essentially having absolute authority, but who would realize the ultimate good and direct his nation toward that end. Well … we’ve yet to witness such in the political mix, so we’re stuck with one another and our human imperfections. The best we can do is aim to choose those governing persons who WILL try to shepherd the nation toward the greater good. That’s why integrity in the media is so very important, for if the electorate is misinformed, a nation can easily regress; sometimes disastrously.

So, on this Independence Day, we give thanks for the relative freedoms we have, and our system of peaceful transfer of power and governing—a method of government and transition arguably a model for many governments around the world. No coup d’état, no open general rebellion, but rather the most powerful nation in the world also has one of the most peaceful and orderly transfers of governance.

NO society or group of people has (or ever will) attained perfection. After all, everyone has a  different idea of what perfection would be! So reasoned discussion is necessary, especially because there will always be those who are impatient and confrontational. As always, we can find direction from scripture: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” (Proverbs 15:18). And concerning truth and reasonability, we read from the letter of James: “…do not boast and be false to the truth…But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity…” (3:14-17). And, of course: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them…” (Matthew 7:12) And for we Christians: “[Jesus said] ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’” (John 14:6) … indicating that when we depart from truth, we depart from Christ. 

As we celebrate the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence this week, who cannot admire and be humbled at the willing self-sacrifice of those who declared: “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” If our founders pledged so much to one another for the formulation of this new nation, are we not obliged to seek to maintain and cultivate it to the greater benefit of all? 

Judeo-Christians remember especially today the words of Moses to Israel: “Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the LORD my God commanded me…Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, `Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-7) And have a blessed (and safe!) holiday.