For this great nation that we live in, and this form of democracy, which, when it works, is the best the world has to offer. From the beginning of the European discovery of this great land, a land flowing with milk and honey, we see this continent as a gift from God. It reminds us of the biblical promised land that Moses led his people toward. It was an answer to prayer. It was rich and productive. It provided freedom and opportunity. And like the biblical land of promise, it was a land already occupied and settled. The biblical land is still being fought over. This great land of ours still sees injustice and hatred and bigotry rampant. We take our freedoms as license to do whatever we want. But as the Preface for today reminds us, we have been entrusted with "the great gift of freedom, a gift that calls forth responsibility and commitment to the truth that all have a fundamental dignity" before God. Our ultimate redemption, the price paid by the blood of Christ, is freedom from sin and unbelievable blessing.
I usually do not delve into the realm of politics and social commentary. However, grateful as I am for this great Republic and this marvelous land, we are broken. We find ourselves in and continue on the path of moral corruption and political gridlock. The system is not working, primarily because it is not the common good that serves as our goal, but our own self serving interests. We see too narrowly. We buy into the "me" and the "now" mind set. We lose sight of the revelation and manifestation of God in our midst. And because we look with the eyes of politics - of Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or whatever - or of the bottom dollar or of the "might is right" and the "do anything to get ahead" philosophy, we do not see or hear or experience the invitation and the need to focus upon the Lord and his message of love and respect. Again, the Collect Prayer for Thanksgiving Day says "Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts for concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service."
Having said this, I give thanks for the generous parishioners and friends who in so many ways respond to the needs of those less fortunate, giving generously in outreach through our charity fund and in their personal outreach. They are an inspiration and a hope that all is not lost, and that we have learned to share our blessings with gratitude.
I also am most grateful to the Lord for his gift to me of being there at the right time and having the right word to say in comfort or in encouragement. I am humbled when someone says that the word that I shared was just right, or touched their heart, or described the person that we were burying. I have had a great deal of that recently. Since November 1st I have celebrated the burials or memorial services for twelve people. Each different, each challenging, they were a blessing for me.
In a special way I had the honor of celebrating the memorial mass this past Saturday, along with one of our Deacons and another classmate, Dr. Bill Hisker, for a High School classmate, Dennis Sabo, who had died at his home in Florida. His family and friends from up north attended. We began our journey of searching for the Lord's will and discovery together over fifty years ago, and one of the blessings of priesthood is to be able to pray for Denny and minister in this way to those whom he loved. One of our classmates attended Denny's funeral in Florida, and there were four of us at the memorial mass, along with a few college and fraternity friends from Duquesne University. Someone took a picture. May Denny Rest in Peace and may his wife and family find comfort and peace.