January 6, 2021 : Epiphany
With courage, hope, and creative energy we begin our flight into the New Year.
For many years, my special area of research and teaching has been religion and values in American society. That area of observation and research is never dull, as we see in this week’s current events. I have no doubts that Covid-19 will be conquered and controlled. The more dangerous virus, however, is hateful and violent socio-political polarization; and this deadly virus will be much more difficult to conquer and control. It will indeed take a lot of courage, reinforced by shared hope, and much shared reflection and action.
Over the holidays I have had a chance to review some of my “religion and values” notes, in preparation for a book that should appear in the new year. I once again read a document written by the Appalachian Catholic Bishops in 1975, titled “This Land is Home to Me.” Their words were so appropriate back then. And…they ring so true today.
Here are a few lines that have inspired me over the years:
“Although the Catholic tradition fully acknowledges the legitimacy of self-defense and force as the final recourse against injustice, we must beware of the temptation of a too easy violence — of a bitterness which can poison that for which we struggle, or which still worse, can provoke from forces of injustice an even more brutal and repressive institutional violence whose first victim is always the poor….
“We wish to thank the many Spirit-filled and dedicated people…who all along have been struggling in hidden or dramatic ways, for justice and unity among people. We thank the youth who have not given up hope, and who continue to believe in freshness in human experience. We thank parents, whose lives have been such that our youth have reason to hope. We thank the elderly, who despite great hardship, continue to survive with spirit and grace, and whose quiet wisdom inspires us all….We believe in the voice of Yahweh among us….
“Hopefully the Church might once again be known as a center of the Spirit, a place where poetry dares to speak, where the song reigns unchallenged, where art flourishes, where nature is welcome, where little people and little needs come first, where justice speaks loudly, and where in a wilderness of idolatrous destruction the great voice of God still cries out for life.”
The prophetic challenge of “This Land is Home to Me” speaks to all of us today and especially to the institutional church and its leadership.
My very best wishes for 2021. May we be hopeful, collaborative, and creative as we travel into this New Year.
Today’s photo of a great bald eagle in flight was taken by John Zuk, a friend from Battle Creek, Michigan. I use it with John’s permission. It captured for me the vision of courageously flying into the new year. John’s photo also reminded me of lines from “On Eagles’Wings” by Fr. Michael Joncas, liturgist, and composer:
“You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, Who abide in his shadow for life, Say to the Lord, ‘My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!’ And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings…”