Ez2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Fourth of July is a good time for some reflections upon the United States of America and our place in this 21st Century world. There are two diametrically opposite ways of looking at things these days. One view holds that it is the end of the American Century and that we are on an unavoidable decline in power, influence and economic might. Another way to look at things, however, is that we are being challenged (by the Spirit?) to learn how to live in a global community where we won’t always be able to get what we want and we will have to really listen to the needs of other nations in order to effectively address our global and national concerns. Both points of view suggest that we have some struggles ahead, and that we will be changed as a people. The big difference, however, is that the second point of view provides some good reason for optimism.
Here’s how St. Paul puts it in this week’s second reading: “Power is made perfect in weakness.” While the so-called “American Century” that roughly speaking ran from the late 1800’s to the late 1900’s resulted in unprecedented prosperity and power and influence for the United States, it has left us with a number of disturbing legacies. From a global perspective, the one that disturbs me the most is this one: although our nation only includes 5% of the world’s population we curently use somewhere between 20 -25% of the world’s resources. It’s hard not to call those numbers a national disgrace in light of the Catholic social justice principle which states that no person (or nation) has an unlimited right to accumulate wealth. Our surplus – individually and as a nation – belongs to the poor. (When was the last time you heard that principle proclaimed from the pulpit? )
Maybe the pressure to learn how to play nice with others which seems inevitable in this rapidly growing global village is just the medicine we need. It can jump start our reflections on what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” when your neighbor lives in the midst of daily bombing raids in Syria or among starving villagers in South Sudan or wrongfully imprisoned in China or at the mercy of murderous drug cartels in Mexico.
One of our noble qualities as a people is that we feel a moral responsibility to using our power for the improvement of the world. As we bring to a close our reflections as a Church during this Fortnight of Freedom, perhaps our message to our elected officials and to the culture at large could be a call to be open to the Holy Spirit who, as she did for St. Paul, is trying to help us see that within what seems to be our present weaknesses lies the seeds of true , transformative power.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)