Presidential Farewell Addresses

One of the unique aspect of the American system is the Farewell Address, it began with George Washington in 1789, when he “taught us how to say goodbye”, with the help of Alexander Hamilton it became a iconic speech where he looked back over his presidency and offered some advice for the future of the nation. Washington himself warns of the dangers of sectionalism and factionalism, the divisions based on party politics that even then were growing more and more bitter within the new nation’s government and among its people. It ends with a brilliant section which made it’s way into Hamilton:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.”

Washington was such an enormous figure that it wasn’t until Andrew Jackson that a President made an official Farewell Address. Jackson himself also warns of the dangers of sectionalism and the shadowy nature of the banking institutions, as they threaten the liberty of the regular citizen. Jackson also brought forth the idea that “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.” The next big Farewell address came with Truman, the invention of radio and television had made the President closer to the populace as speeches could be broadcast throughout the nation. Turman’s address includes a great line with is important in these days. “Regardless of your politics, whether you are Republican or Democrat, your fate is tied up with what is done here in this room. The President is President of the whole country. We must give him our support as citizens of the United States. He will have mine, and I want you to give him yours.”

Then we come to Ike’s farewell Address which has seemed to be the direction that the nation has headed. In Eisenhower’s speech he warned about deficit spending, the potential for corruption in the Military Industrial Complex and that science would be relegated to the scientific elites and federal funded. This is one of the big farewell addresses in the 20th century. Bill Clinton in his farewell address urged that the nation treat its diverse population with “fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and regardless of when they arrived in our country, always moving toward the more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.” George W. Bush in his echoed some of the sentiments of Truman saying that “You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.” They had to make tough decisions and did what they thought was best for the nation.

Obama’s farewell comes at a unique time and his emphasis was on the average citizen, We are the people that make up this democracy in America. If we are tired of the partisan divide that seems entrenched we should not retreat into our safe communities of like minded people but go out and try as Atticus Finch says “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This is for all of us the middle class white guy should try to understand where minority groups are coming from and they in turn should do the same.  So many of us only care about the our (party) but need to focus on the We. Obama touched upon this idea in his speech in Selma, “America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes, We Can.’”

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Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from the prophet Amos 6:1,4-7; Psalm 146; Paul’s first letter to Timothy 6:11-16; and Luke’s Gospel 16:19-31.

We begin with a strange passage where Amos says that the Lord berates Zion for its complacency. This message could be the exact same today as most people only care about themselves and how they can make things best for them we still are lacking this compassion thing and it is an important thing to have.  Paul reminds us that we should be living a virtuous life. In the Gospel we have another parable the Rich man and Lazarus. Now, this isn’t the same Lazarus with Mary and Martha as sisters but a beggar named Lazarus. Lazarus sat covered with sores outside the gate of the rich man’s house, the rich man ate to his heart content and wore the best purple money could buy while Lazarus sat outside hoping for table scraps from the rich man while dogs licked his sores. They both died Lazarus was taken to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man went to the netherworld. The rich man pleads to Father Abraham for help but since the rich man gave no help to Lazarus in life, the same would be done for him. The man then asks if someone could go and tell his brothers about this. Abraham say “They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.”

This is important we have the Bible the Books of Moses and the Prophets along with a bunch of stuff written by saints from all ages to guide our way through life. This relates back to the first reading we need to care about more then just ourselves but for the whole human family. I mean just look at the state of things currently we have people complaining about immigrants and refugees as well as the general inequality between people of color and white people along with men and women. We need to all work together to make things better and it shouldn’t take someone to rise from the dead to tell us this.  This is the focus of the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, this is still going on right now. Let us all try and act with compassion and justice to everyone that we meet in our lives over the rest of this Jubilee Year.

Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, Paul’s first letter to Timothy 2:1-8 and Luke’s Gospel 16:1-13.

The reading we hear this week are about balance and fairness, and how having faith our lives should be balanced. Amos beckons that the scales in the temple be balance so that the poor are treated the same as the rich. Once again we have a parable in the Gospel this week it’s about a manager of an estate who is about to be fired and he goes to those who owe his master’s estate anything and renegotiates a deal with them out of spite for the master only holding them to a portion of what they owe. A servant cannot have two masters for he will hate one and love the other.  This is a huge deal in the world today as it seems more and more people are more concerned about what type of phone they have and how much money they have and not much else. We need to spend time with one another and talk. Sure it seems like the world is more connected with everyone on facebook and everyone carrying their phones everywhere they go but this is not as it seems. Let us all take some time during the week to try to build relationships talking with one another using our mouths and ears.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:24-28, and Luke’s Gospel 10:38-42.

The major point this week in Hospitality, we see it in Genesis with Abraham welcoming three guest and giving them something to eat and drink as well as in the Gospel where we hear about Mary and Martha. These are perfect role models for us all as we are to be welcoming to all who cross our paths. It’s more than just offering them something to eat but as Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better by sitting at his feet. It is more about the companionship and spending time with other people, for who know what will happen like when the three guest leave they say that Sarah will bear a child. It isn’t that difficult as we don’t need to stress over a three course meal to impress someone all we really need to do is share some time with others. This is something that doesn’t happen much today as we are so connected to the digital world and some would gladly be interacting with phones instead of real people. We need to be able to put our phones down and talk with one another, it isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be there isn’t a guide or a checklist just be yourself and find out who your neighbors are.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from Deuteronomy 30:10-14, Psalm 69 or Psalm 19, Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:15-20, and Luke’s Gospel 10:25-37.

The major story is this weekend is the Good Samaritan. It calls back to the first reading about obeying the law of the Lord. We have the question that still rings true today as a scholar of Jewish law asked Jesus who is his neighbor. The reply is complex as Jesus goes and tells a parable a man is stripped and beaten close to death, a priest comes to him and refuses to help then a Levite comes and does the same finally a Samaritan comes, now let’s remember that the Samaritans and Jews didn’t like each other very much, and helps the man bringing him to an inn and saying to the innkeeper that he will pay for whatever he spends beyond the two denarii the Samaritan will repay when he returns. Jesus then asks the scholar who is the neighbor and he says “the one who showed mercy.” Jesus tells him to do likewise. In this year of mercy let us all try to do likewise and show the mercy to our neighbors, and that includes everyone. As Susan Sontag said “10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.” Let us all strive toward the merciful or as Mother Teresa said “Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness.”

Theater tickets

I am a big fan of theater, I was a part of the theater department in high school and flirted with majoring in theater in College. So it’s an important aspect of my life, sure I don’t have the thousands of dollars to drop to go up to New York and see something on Broadway. I also don’t have the hundreds of dollars to go to all the shows that I’d like to see in Washington DC.  So reading this article made some sense, Ticket prices for live theater is expensive and it is mostly attracting an old white audience. However just look at the market for Hamilton the American Musical, with tickets ranging from $140 to $550 from the box office which are sold out and on resale go from $800 to $3000+, but the audience seems to be as diverse as the other show it might be a bit younger but that’s about it.

The NPR piece looks at Signature Theatre in NYC who have done a radical thing and that is subsidized tickets for everyone. So you are not paying about fifty per ticket plus fees but around thirty.  This is a great thing as it gets more people access to live theater. Back in Shakespeare’s day tickets started at like a penny and went up to around six pennies. This is why it was popular entertainment, if live theater were about the same price of a movie ticket I really think that Hollywood would be scared as there are so many niche markets across the country where this might work real well but other places the best live theater they get to see might just be the local high schools or colleges productions. Perhaps it is time that live theater became an important form of entertainment for all races and ages of people.

Easter Monday, Divine Mercy Novena Day 4

“Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

We go from praying for all the faithful to all those who don’t believe. This novena covers all people and we aren’t praying that they convert outright but that they have some understanding of the Divine Mercy that the Lord provides and that they are kept in the heart of Christ just like the faithful. It is just like in Genesis when Abraham pleaded with the Lord for the sake of Sodom, where Abraham haggles with the Lord from finding fifty righteous people in all of Sodom to that of only ten righteous people. The Lord answers that for the sake of the ten I will not destroy it. There are many people who are righteous living in the world and although they do no know God, the Lord cares about these people as much as the faithful.

First Sunday of Lent

This week the readings come from Deuteronomy 26:4-10, Psalm 91, Paul’s letter to the Romans 10:8-13, and Luke’s Gospel 4:1-13.

These reading lay out Salvation History in a quick review in the Old Testament we get how the Jewish people were in Egypt and then Moses lead them to the promised land this story continues in Paul’s letter with Jesus. In the Gospel we hear about how Jesus himself went out into the desert for 40 days after he was baptized. In the desert he was tempted by the devil. Our lives are a journey through the desert just like the people of Israel longing for the promised land so to do we long to be with Christ in our Eternal reward.  Sure the devil is present in this desert but unlike the experience of Jesus it seems that the devil is working in and through many more people and things. We have more than just Moses and Jesus leading the way for us but all the other saints in heaven, as well as those here on Earth like the Popes and Patriarchs across the world. We all are working toward that one place sort of like that Buddhist idea of the bodhisattva, where they are working for the complete enlightenment of the whole world. Let us try to uses this Lenten season to reflect on life in the desert and how we can try and mend the world into a better place, perhaps this can be done through love.

The Visitation

The Fruit of the Mystery of the Visitation is Love of Neighbor.

This is sort of easy to understand. As the it is the second of the Great commandments and it is basically the Golden Rule of ages past. Do unto others as you would have done unto them, or however you want to phrase it is a common thread for all human kind.  Both the religious and even the humanists of the world can live by this idea.

It would be awesome if everyone in the world could follow this rule, but this mean everyone and I am sure that some individuals like those in ISIS wouldn’t care for this one bit. If we could all try to love our neighbors a little more it would be a step into building the Kingdom here on earth and this is the mission for all humans.

The Transfiguration

I am sure you know what happens at the Transfiguration Jesus takes Peter and the Sons of Thunder up a mountain. While they are on the mountain top Jesus is transfigured before them and Moses and Elijah appear. Then Jesus, Moses and Elijah talk to one another, we hear the Voice of God saying “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” and Peter has the clever idea to build some tents and keep this event last forever.

The Transfiguration is a singular event and we all are somewhat like Peter wanting the feeling to last forever, like when you go on a retreat you feel so much better when you get back. It seems like the world is in desperate need of a mountain top moment where things are righted or something.  I hope that by looking at the Transfiguration we all can be transformed by our faith and we in turn  can transform the world into a better place to live.  Let us all pray that the Holy Spirit can come down and inspire us all to make the world a better place for everyone to live in no matter what we are Muslim or Christian or Jew or Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, gay or straight or trans, Woman or Man, rich or poor.