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.’”

Christ the King

The readings for today come from the second book of Samuel 5:1-3, Psalm 122, Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:12-20, and Luke’s Gospel 23:35-43.

Today marks the end of the Year of Mercy as well as the beginning final week of the Liturgical year. So the readings seem apropos. We begin by hearing about King David being crowned king of Israel, the Lord said “You shall shepherd my people and be commander.” This is a request of more than just King David it is that of all his royal children, ourselves included who through our baptism are called to watch out for one another. Paul brings up the whole concept that Jesus is the first and everything comes from him. In Luke we hear the Crucifixion narrative with the good thief. This gospel story fits well with the message of the Year of Mercy as we hear how Jesus is hung between two other criminals. One asks “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other rebukes him saying Dude we deserve to be here unlike this Jesus guy, have you no fear of God/ Awe and Wonder (gift of the Holy Spirit)” We are like both of these criminals in our lives sometimes we look for the quick fix and wonder why it doesn’t work that way all the time but other times we have the hope that things will turn up for the better like the good thief ask “Jesus remember him when you come into your kingdom” We need more of this hope in the world today, sure we live in trying times but it is only through God’s mercy that we are still here today. I hope that we can continue this message of mercy bringing it with us as the holiday season comes and goes as well as the new President comes into office in the United States.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from the second Book of Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; Psalm 17; Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; and Luke’s Gospel 20:27-38.

The readings this week all talk about death. We begin in Maccabees with a reflection on Martyrdom all seven brothers face death not with fear but with hope as we all are promised resurrection through Christ Jesus on the last day. This idea continues in the second reading where Paul speaks of this hope with the Lord being our strength and consolation during our lifetime. The Gospel takes the idea of hope and flips it the Sadducees ask Jesus about seven brothers who all married to the same woman after the previous one died and who would be the husband in heaven. Yet Jesus tells them it doesn’t matter “children of this age marry and remarry” but in heaven it won’t matter for as long as the individual believes in God they will not die for we are forever alive in the Lord. This mean that marriage is a contract between people and not between God and the people if you remember it is the husband and wife who are the individuals who preform this sacrament as opposed to all the others. Let us remember this hope that exist in our life knowing that we are all called to another age, like how the ring bearers in Lord of the Rings went to the Undying lands.

We could also take the classic John 3:16 to pull this idea out “For God so love the World that he gave his only Son for whom so ever believes in him will have eternal life” or something to that effect. The Hope that we have in our lives is Eternal life and sure we hope that we will meet the people we knew in this life who have pass before us especially our family and friends but we often forget that they are still alive in our lives through our memories and other individuals. It is a simple idea and I hope that we can reflect upon this during this upcoming week.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This wee the readings come from Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33; the Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12 or 19; and Luke’s Gospel 12:32-48.

The theme this week is how Faith gives us hope. We hear about Abraham who after the Lord told him to leave Ur and his homeland with his family did so without asking why for he had faith that the Lord would provide for him. This idea is hinted at in Wisdom where we hear about the Passover and Exodus is an idea that has been known for the ages of Jewish History, Abraham, Issac, Jacob and the like all knew to have faith and hope. We continue this idea in Luke  with the parable of the Faithful Servant. This is the one where the servant awaits the Master to return from a Wedding but the servant doesn’t know when this will happen. We need to be like the servant who is ready for their master to return rather then the one who beats others and drink up the wine. It’s like if we knew when a robber would come and break into the house we’d be ready, but we never know when this is going to happen so it’s best to be safe. As the motto of scouting says “Be Prepared”. We need to be ready for anything to happen and have faith that things will end up positively.  I hope that we can keep all those in Rio for the Olympics (athletes, coaches, and fans) as well as everyone who is traveling in our prayers this next couple of weeks that they all are kept safe.

Franciscan Crown: Finding in the Temple

We are back with the mysteries of the Rosary. Mary, Joseph and Jesus went down to Jerusalem to the temple for Passover when Jesus was about twelve or so and on there way back to Nazareth Jesus couldn’t be found, both Mary and Joseph though he was with the other parent or with some of their relatives so about three days later they discovered he wasn’t there. So they went back and found Jesus sitting with the teachers in the temple listening and asking questions. All were impressed with his understanding of what the teachers in the temple were talking about.  When Mary and Joseph show up anxious from looking for Jesus, Jesus responds to them that where else would he have been, “in my Father’s house” or “about my Father’s business” or “in the things of my Father”. We should all remember this and at times when we feel lost we can always find Jesus in these places. All to often we can lose Jesus in our lives and not have space for him but we can always find him again.

The Ascension

The fruit of this mystery is Hope and Desire for Ascension to heaven.

Hope is one of the three Theological Virtues along with Faith and Love and Pope Benedict wrote an Encyclical about Hope. Benedict also nicely summarized the idea in a homily saying “Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God has no desire for what is withered, dead, ersatz, and finally discarded: he wants what is fruitful and alive, he wants life in its fullness and he gives us life in its fullness.” This is the Hope that we all have it was used by Barack Obama when he ran for President in 2008 notably in Shepard Fairley’s poster. We all have hopes for the future but we can be instrumental in making our hopes reality.

Brideshead Revisited

I have been working on reading this book for awhile now. It is Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece which is considered by many to be one of the greatest book in the world. Waugh himself at one time called this his magnum opus, but after re-reading it he reconsidered and  Waugh was appalled with what he wrote. In the revised edition of the book in the preface he explains how he came to write the book.

Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is the written in three parts. We begin with a prologue in the 40s with Charles Ryder telling us how he is in the army and has just arrived at a new camp which he used to know Brideshead Castle. The story then moves back in time as Charles reminisces about how he once knew the people who lived here notably Sebastian Flyte. Charles met Sebastian back in 1923 while he was at Hertford College and Sebastian was at Christ Church both at Oxford. Charles lived on the first floor of his dormitory and one evening Sebastian was wandering around drunk and staggering around and  threw up  into Charles’s room. After this Charles and Sebastian became fast friends, eventually Sebastian brings Charles to his house Brideshead Castle, while none of his family is there. From here Charles eventually meets the rest of the Flyte family, Lord and Lady Marchmain, Bridey, Julia and Cordelia. They are a deeply Catholic family who are flawed individuals and Charles is agnostic.

In the second book Sebastian has become a all out drunk, Julia has found a beau in Rex Mottram and there is talk about how to marry Julia he needs to become Catholic but things don’t go as expected. Charles has all but blocked out the Marchmain’s as he lives in France and only reunites with them as he learns that Lady Marchmain is dying and goes to find Sebastian. The third book skips a decade so it’s about 1936, Charles has married (Celia) and has had two children but it rather unhappy with his life saying that the last time he was truly happy was back when Sebastian and the Marchmain’s were in his life. He has been out of the country over in Latin America trying to rekindle his spark for architecture art it seems to as critics are all clamoring for Charles saying that these are amazing. Charles runs into Julia and as it turns out they are both in loveless marriages (Celia and Rex).  There is a cool bit with King Lear too. Lord Marchmain remarries and is reinvigorated in the faith, Celia and Charles as well as Julia and Rex get divorced. There is the will they won’t they between Julia and Charles but it end with Julia realizing that it would be a sinful marriage since they both are already married, just like Rex was earlier on.  In the end we go back to the framing story with Charles in the army at Brideshead. Charles is “homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless” but he goes and visits the chapel at Brideshead, a place he hadn’t gone before, it is here that he comes to the realization that everything is there for a purpose. There is a glimmer of hope for everyone no matter how far we fall, look at Sebastian who ends up at a monastery where he lives in and out of the world with people who care about him, God is there offering us a hand. It was a nice book to finish during Lent.

Fifth Sunday in Lent

This week’s readings are Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:8-14 and John’s Gospel 8:1-11. This week is also the Third Scrutiny so you might get the readings from Year A instead of these.

Today, the readings have us reflecting upon the past but also looking towards the future. In Isaiah we hear that we should not remember the things of the past since the Lord will make all things new. Paul tells us to live in Christ because life before that is meaningless and in John we hear about forgiveness when the woman caught in adultery is about to be stoned, Jesus says to the crowd “Let those who haven’t sinned cast the first stone.” These readings are a reminder to all of us about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it that thing that important but not many of us are keen to actually go. This is where the hope and the promise to make all things new begins by admitting that we’ve made mistakes and trying to do better in the future. All to often we are the ones with the stones wanting to throw them at someone else for their sins but we are all that woman who Jesus is willing to forgive as well. We all are sinners but we can improve ourselves and hopefully by transforming ourselves we can change the world for the better.

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.

Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland is that movie that George Clooney stars in that got mixed reviews. This is the latest film by Brad Bird, it has a screenplay by Damon Lindelof, that guy from Lost. It’s not that bad of a movie it just takes a while to get the plot moving. Spoilers to follow.

The film begin with funny scene with Frank Walker (Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) telling the story to us. Frank want to take it the dark route, the future is scary but Casey continually interject some positive light about the future. We then are transported to Frank’s childhood, he traveled to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Frank brings his invention, a jet pack with him, to enter an invention contest. David Nix (Hugh Laurie), is the head of the contest but isn’t impressed since it has no purpose. Later on Athena (Raffey Cassidy) gives Frank a pin with a “T” on it and tells Frank to follow them. the pin brings Frank to a transport and he is transported to Tomorrowland where his jet pack get fixed and flies around landing in from of David and Athena. This is one of the problems with the film to many characters and it takes to long for anything to actually happen.

So the film go back to the present with Casey sabotaging the machines taking down a decommissioned NASA launch pad, she get arrested and gets a pin like Frank had when her Dad (Tim McGraw) bails her out, actually he call in some favors. Casey is memorized by the pin and wants to go to Tomorrowland. The battery on the simulation dies and Casey wants more so she looks for a pin online and there a place in Houston that knows about the pin so she leaves Cape Canaveral and travels to Houston. At the memorabilia shop she runs into Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn who are robots from Tomorrowland this is a great scene. Athena shows up and rescues Casey and they set off for New York where Frank lives. This starts a journey which leads to Paris where there is a rocket that  Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison built as a way to get to Tomorrowland. They blast off and when they get to Tomorrowland it is nothing like we saw it earlier.

The basic theme of the film is that we need to have more people hopeful about the future then those who can only see the doom and gloom that we currently like to hype. As Bird said “We set out to make a fable or a fairy tale about what happened to the positive view of the future and how can we get it back and pursue that idea.” This positive look at the future is something has been lacking for a while now in film and on television since everything it seems is set in a dystopian world. We need to be able to see the future in a positive light everyone in awhile.