All of us are aware of the landmark Supreme Court ruling regarding the institution of marriage handed down a few weeks ago. Suddenly, the celebration of July 4th is now upon us, and the prospect of celebrating our Nation takes on a new tone. I do not think this is the time or space to lay out once more the Church’s teaching (Bishop Kemme and so many of his Priests have done a momentous job at pointing out the never-changing reality of God’s plan for marriage). Instead, I want to ask this: how does one celebrate when we are frustrated with our Nation?
July 4th is rightfully seen as a “Patriotic” holiday, but the word “Patriot” is often misunderstood. The word comes from the Latin word “Patria” for “homeland,” which stems from the word “Pater,” meaning Father. A Patriot is one who loves “the land of his Fathers.” Notice that the root of this word is not a love of an abstract concept or idea. It is a love of a particular people and place. It is also a love that develops naturally from our lives as families (which is a very poignant point in light of the Supreme Court decision), but also suggests in what manner a Patriot should love his or her country. If our families disappoint us, or if they do not treat us perfectly, we do not simply cease loving them. In fact, we are called to an unconditional love for our family. Sure, we shouldn’t sit passively and take abuse from them—it is our duty to mend broken relationships as best we can. But nevertheless, we love our families even when they seem unlovable. Indeed, it is precisely then that they need our love most.
Jesus witnesses this fact to us in the Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 6:1-6). In His own country, among His own people, Jesus was not accepted. Among His own people, they all had Him “figured out,” and said derisive things of Our Lord. He was there to help them, but they spoke lowly of Him and dismissed Him. Perhaps this begins to sound familiar to many of us in these times. We have given our blood, sweat, and tears to this land, to this people, and now in a matter of no time, they dismiss us as mere bigots? They look at all the good we want to do to help, and see it as unworthy of respect? We may want to get angry, but know this: the Lord Himself lived through such times as well.
What is one to do? Well the Old Testament reading for Sunday (Ezekiel 2:2-5) gives us some clues. First of all, realize that it is precisely among the “hard of face and obstinate of heart” that God sends forth His prophets. You have been called to join in a great and noble band, to speak along with the likes of Ezekiel to a rebellious people not prone to listen. You are amongst good company. But finally, it is Paul who gives us the most compelling—but difficult—advice. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 we learn God had given Paul a thorn in his side. Why? Why does God allow these things to happen to those who serve Him? The answer: that we may learn the most important lesson of all. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Friends, when we had much more “power,” or “sway” within our culture, there was much good we did for our Patria as a people, no doubt. But by the grace of God, in our new state of weakness, God will do untold, unfathomable good, as long as we remain faithful. Let us boast in our weakness, because it demands us to go asking for the grace of our Merciful Father. And if we ask for that grace, it will spill over into our communities, into our land, into this people to whom we belong and whom we find so currently frustrating. And then, brothers and sisters, we will be true Patriots, lovers of the land of our Fathers, indeed.
Many blessings to all of you and to this land,
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