Monday, February 6, 2017


   I remember a story told a few years ago by a commencement speaker.  I don't remember his exact words, so here's a paraphrase.  Two young fish were swimming along in a stream.  An old fish came swimming toward them.  As he approached them, he said, "The water's fine today, isn't it."  When he had passed, one of the young fish said to the other, "What's water?"

   During Vatican II, Pope John XXIII told us to "read the signs of the times."  It was his way of saying that we should get to know and understand the "water," i. e., the world, we live in.

   We therefore should take a good, clear and honest look at America today.  Our way of looking at America is to see it from within the Spirit of Christ, who dwells deeply within America (and the whole world).  In this way we will see all things from the viewpoint of the indwelling wholeness in love that is slowly and with difficulty working its way outward, ever unfolding, ever evolving, toward visible wholeness in love.  

   We see that deeply within our country, wholeness in love already exists.  And we see it working its way outward, slowly and with difficulty, toward ever unfolding wholeness in love in our country--which is what makes us a great country.

   Jesus even gave us a "Spiritual Constitution" by which we could check to see to what extent we are evolving as a great country. It is the Beatitudes.  America is a great country if it blesses: 
    the poor;
    those who mourn;  
    the meek, i.e., those who temper their righteous anger with reason and humility; 
    the clean of heart;
    those who hunger and thirst for righteousness;
    those who are persecuted because they stand for Christ and his healing, saving, self-sacrificing love for the world.

   With our "Constitution" in mind, I believe we can say that America is a great country in the following ways:

   1.  Our founding principles of unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--for all Americans.  By "liberty" our founders meant not just freedom but socially responsible freedom.
    2.  The freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights and the Amendments to our Constitution
    3.  Our sense of  youthfulness, inventiveness, innovation and progress in so many fields
    4.  The millions of American individuals and families who love one another and all people.
    5.  The millions of Americans who work to protect our environment
    6.  The millions of Americans who are peaceful and want peace for all Americans and all the world
    7.  The millions of Americans who are actively involved in working to make America a more free and loving country.
   America is not a great country in the following ways:
     1.  A radical sense of uncaring individuality shown by those who see all others as rivals and competitors to be defeated

     2.  Those Americans who show a deep distaste for commitment that militates against marriage and family life

     3.  A shallowness among those Americans who have not grown past the Facebook, Tweeting and Radio/TV "Reality" level of social development.

     4.  A breakdown in American education that has resulted in millions of Americans who are not properly educated, e.g., in civic knowledge and appreciation, in history, in thinking and judging skills.  One result of this breakdown is the rise of the number of people who listen to fake news and believe, act and vote with their emotions, without clear understanding and judgment.

     5.  A dehumanized and dehumanizing Capitalist system that:
         a) cares only for maximized profits
         b) is coldly uncaring for workers who lose their jobs
         c) freely pollutes the environment and expects taxpayers to pay for the clean-up
         d) skews the tax system to its own benefit
         e) helps divide our society between the "haves" and the "have-nots"

   In its present form our Capitalist system contradicts the Spiritual Constitution so much that it makes America small, not great.  From a spiritual point of view it needs a radical reshaping.  

   6A dehumanized and dehumanizing political system that is at a dangerous level of breakdown.  Our Ship of State has crashed upon rocks of incompetence, pettiness, hypocrisy, lies, delusion and hate, beginning at the highest level and traveling through society at large.  
      Millions of Americans don't even bother to vote.  Millions live in a delusional world of fake news, "alternative facts," and "honest mistakes" about massacres that never happened.  In the war that is today's politics, truth is the first casualty.

   7.  A Christian religion (not Faith) that is in serious disrepair, to the extent that it is either irrelevant to people who could bring a new birth of Faith to our country, or virulent in the hatred it preaches.
         One source of light in this dismal situation is those who proclaim that they are "spiritual but not religious."  Many young people are truly searching for deeper meaning in their lives.  They "see the water" in which they are swimming and see that it is polluted with the problems I mentioned above.  They are truly looking for a Faith that can enlighten and energize them to understand, face and solve today's problems.  Unhappily, I don't see anywhere near a sufficient number of spiritually knowledgeable and well-formed leaders who can guide them into more "saving" water.     

   I believe we can conclude that the "waters" of America today, while shining with some clear springs, are in very vital ways so seriously polluted that America is in real danger of falling apart.  I am old enough to see and feel that we are in a period that eerily resembles Germany in the 1930's.  When I see how our federal government is now operating, I remember Protestant Minister, Martin Niemoller's heart-rending words:

   They came for the Socialists...for the Trade Unionists...for the Jews...and I did not speak out.  He saw the water of his time with prophetic clarity.  Today I hear, "They came for the Immigrants, the Afro-Americans, the Poor, The Muslims, the LGBTQ community...

   Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out.  We need more, many, many more, because
in our great country the water today is dark, sad and frightening.  Along with all people of good will, we need to purify the water in whatever way we can, in the healing, saving, all-loving voice, strength and action of the Spirit of Christ.

   People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  May God bless America and the world through our Christ-ed voice and actions.




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