LETTER TO SINEAD AND MARK,- two young adults.
Dear Sinead and Mark,
Do you ever feel the need for someone or some group to give you new heart and hope- to put pep in your step again, and energy to go out and make a difference? Well, I know that I need that kind of boost, every so often.
And, do you know what, Sinead, Mark? We have the same kind of ‘Inauguration Address’ in the three readings placed before us at Mass today. They’re full of hope for the time ahead of us. Let me tell you just a little about them:
Ezra and Nehemiah,-ever heard of them? Not many of us have, to be honest. Yet, they had a great role as leaders in their community, at a critical time in the history of the Jewish people, our ancestors. One was a priest/scribe, the other a political leader. Together they had negotiated with the King of Persia (Iran, to us) the release of the captive Jews, and also permission to rebuild their Temple back home in Jerusalem. And today (in this reading), the people are back home- after two generations away in exile, somewhere about the year 440 BC- and the people all gathered, including ‘the children old enough to understand’, and their great Book was read to them,- the Book of God’s dealings with them. The people heard the words with great joy, from early morning to noon; they cried AMEN, AMEN! with joy, and were filled with tears of joy. Then, the Ezra and Nehemiah sent them all home to celebrate, -‘Do not be mournful, do not weep’- for the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law….’Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, …for this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad; the joy of the Lord is your strength.’. It was a knees-up time! Let the music begin. Here was a new beginning for the people, the inauguration of a new era. And it’s an invitation to us, today, to hear the Word with great joy again, and to go home and celebrate it and live it with joy. (See it in Nehemiah 8, today’s First Reading).
Paul (I Corinthians 12:12) sets out his stall, telling the disciples of Jesus in the port city of Corinth that they are all like one body in Christ,- all different parts, but all one body, with Jesus, needing each other, concerned for one another, and using all the varied gifts that the Spirit had given to people in the community. These new Christians (only baptized a few short years before) are the start of a new era in their world,- all of them living and working as ‘one body’ in Christ, caring for the world of people.
Jesus, at the very start of his three years of ministry, sets out his stall, (See Luke 4:12ff), when he reads out (-proclaims, gives his own ‘Inauguration Address’!-) in the synagogue of Capernaum, before all the people: a new era was beginning, here, too, with Jesus. ‘‘The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me…sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the blind, to set free the down-trodden, proclaim the Lord’s year of favour .’ And then he added: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’
And that’s our joy today- that’s your job and my job, to work together with others to bring good news to people, to set people free, to help people to see their dignity clearly, to help lift up people who are down-trodden by society, who are ignored and even walked upon by others. It’s a fantastic vision for our world that Jesus had in his heart, his dream for his gathered people, who in turn would make the dream happen.
He wants to gather together followers,- people who are truly captivated by him, by his vision for the world, people who are fascinated by it and drawn to it as by a magnet. He’s about gathering people with this dream. Are you up for it? He looks for particular people, in every particular place,- meaning wherever we are, and whoever we are, and now. He’s in a hurry, because the world needs us. ‘This text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen’, he tells us.
Thanks, Sinead, Mark. Hope you have a great week. And mind the burgers!!
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INAUGURATION SPEECH: (extracts)
(You can find it on You-tube as well):
Barack Obama set out his stall last Monday, 21 January, in his second Inauguration Address, in front of ¾ of a million people gathered, and in front of his nation and the world. He set out his dream, his hope, not for himself but for the nation, for himself as a citizen with all his fellow-citizens. ‘We the people…’ and ‘You and I, as citizens…’ were repeated over and over again.
“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time…with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; … collective action… Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as …one people.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations …are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity… climate change, our economic vitality and our forests and waterways; our croplands …we will preserve our planet, commended to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences peacefully …because (our) engagement (with each other) can more lastingly lift suspicion and fear.
And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still…
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to… now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, …with common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, …the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.