Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Unhappy is the land that has no heroes...
Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."
(Galileo, a play by Bertold Brecht)

The first reading in today's Eucharistic Liturgy brings us to consider one of the heroes of the Jewish faith in the time before Jesus was born. This is the story about Mattathias and his five sons. Distraught because enemies had taken over Jerusalem. Sacrileges abounded in the city and in the most sacred of places, the Temple in Jerusalem. "Her temple has become like a man disgraced ... we see our sanctuary and our beauty and our glory laid waste" (vv 8-13).

The story today took place around the year 167 BC. Because Mattathias loved his Jewish faith, he moved his sons out of the Jerusalem area to settle in Modein. There he could continue to worship as he believed ... until the king's officers moved into Modein to "organize the sacrifices" to different gods and idols. In the chosen selection of the Book of Maccabees for today, we read of the efforts to get Mattathias and his sons to give up their faith.

Today there are so many different challenges to Roman Catholics especially in our American homeland. In the city of Washington, DC, Catholics are faced with a decision by Church leaders (authorities). The City Council of the nation's capital city are debating a resolution to approve same-sex marriages. The Catholic Archbishops and a number of other faith leaders, especially in prominent African-American churches have spoken out against the possible affirmative decision of City Council. In response to the possibility, the Catholic Church leaders have made public that such an action would result in the ending of many relationships with the city. These relationships basically are those city contracts with the Archdiocese where social services are provided for many of the city's poor and elderly are assisted. As one would expect in today's society, the fabric is one of many colors, like Joseph's coat. Several Pastors, in conversations yesterday, said that they have been pummeled with calls by and meetings with parishioners. Some are angry with the Church, some threatening to hold back fulfilling pledges to a major capital campaign of several years ago, some saying this might be the straw that breaks the camel's back requiring a move to another faith and, of course, those who see themselves as champions of the faith.

Being a Catholic today is not easy for everyone who says "I am a Catholic." Those who maintain a very strong position supporting the Archdiocese's actions as well as those who challenge fighting the city on the backs of the poor and needy each see leaders in their particular stance at this time.

For a Catholic in our city these days, there is a genuine need for much prayer and reflection. For our leaders both Church and civil, there is great need for dialog and prayer as well. For all of us from Washington, DC or elsewhere, it is a time for reflection and prayer.

The photo above is that of the smallest National Cemetery in the United States. It is the burial ground for those Union soldiers who died at the battle of Ball's Bluff, located in Leesburg, VA. The cemetery overlooks the Potomac River. There at the site, just outside the walls surrounding the 50 some entombed loyalists is a marker in memory of the first and only US Senator to have died in battle but who is buried in the Presidio, in San Francisco. The following is from the U.S. Senate Records:

Senator Killed in Battle
October 21, 1861
Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, veteran of the Mexican war, well-known lawyer and orator, and confidante of President Abraham Lincoln, answered his country's call to battle in 1861. Leaving the Senate Chamber behind, Baker led his troops into the Battle of Ball's Bluff and became the Senate's first and only sitting member to die in battle.

So today being a Catholic in the city of Washington demands extraordinary strength. Are we unhappy because we have no heroes or unhappy because we need a hero?

Posted by Picasa