Since I don’t have a public Mass next Sunday, this will be my only chance to speak about our national holiday this month, Memorial Day (which is still a week off). I’d like to speak about the virtue of patriotism. It is good and pleasing to God to honor, in memoriam, men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. My father served in General Douglas MacArthur’s army during WWII. At 94 years, his mind is as sharp as ever, and I love to listen to his war stories. He describes the liberation of Manila, how American service men helped the Filipino people rebuild after the Japanese occupation. I love for my country, just as the Filipinos love their country. It is our duty to cultivate the virtue of patriotism, thanking God for the land of our birth.
Good Stewards of our Fatherland
Charity begins at home, and so before asking how we are protecting “the planet,” we should ask how we are doing right here in America. Am I exercising careful stewardship of God’s gifts right here in my own backyard? Authentic care for the environment begins at home, thanking God for my own neighborhood and my own country first. In a particular way, Americans show respect and affection for their President, to their members of Congress, and to their nine Supreme Court justices. St. Paul urges us in 1 Tim 2:2 “that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered … for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” We disrespect every American when we ridicule our president, our governor, or our legislators, whether they are Democrat or Republican. We may have to disagree, and we may have to organize opposition to leaders who contradict the laws of God, but we must do so with charity, and with respect for their office and their persons. “Always have a reason for your hope,” St. Peter writes in today’s reading, “but do it with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear.”
You know how awful it feels to be in sharp disagreement with others, especially your friends and family. It feels awful because it’s a sin, because treating fellow citizens disrespectfully causes disorder in the body politic. We see disrespectful aggression nonstop in commercial and social media, in politics and podcasts. It tears our country down, and Catholics at least should strive for the virtue of patriotism: of respecting our fellow Americans, not merely “tolerating” them. We are all children of one Father. We must at least strive to order our lives together not as squabbling, nasty children, but as rational, respectful adults, building a peaceful and ordered nation.
The Spirit of Truth
Our Lord will ascend into heaven this Thursday, and the Church will enter her first novena from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday: nine days of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. “I will ask the Father,” Jesus says, “and he will send you the spirit of truth.” In Greek the word is “paraclete,” literally “he who is called to stand beside you.” The Holy Spirit is “another advocate” who will be with you, Jesus says, until I return. America needs the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth and unity. Begin praying to the Holy Spirit now, preparing for Pentecost in two weeks. Veni Sancti Spiritus! America needs you now. The Church, so sadly fractured and corrupted, needs you now. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; enkindle in the fire of your love, and they will be recreated, and you will renew the face of the earth.