I was dreading going to Mass a little today-- my parish has been all too keen in the past to make Mass into a show of patriotism that kind of gets under my skin. I sincerely dislike the Sundays when we get to sing "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful" in Church. This always kind of bugs me because America, while founded on "religious freedom," hasn't always been the nicest of countries to Catholics, and this random outburst of nationalism seems trite, contrived and a bit anachronistic to me. In any event, it turned out okay. Because today, GOD had a message for us.
While people in Protestant communities across the country were sitting in... pews (folding chairs? Gymnasium bleachers?) listening to what I can only assume was their preacher's thoughts on today's milestone, possibly diatribes about the need to Christianize Western society, Catholics all around the world got this message, from the Book of Sirach (don't try to find it in your KJV):
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
Now, for those of you who don't know how this works, today was the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Catholic liturgy includes four readings per Mass: one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, one of the Letters of the Apostles and a Gospel reading. These are on a cycle so that the Gospels are chosen from a different book of the Bible depending on the cycle year we are in. This Old Testament reading is one that we have been reading on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time for at least 40 years, likely for centuries. It just so happens to have fallen on September 11th, 10 years later.
Perhaps we should all reflect on this passage and really think about it.
...And be grateful that we didn't have to sing "God Bless America" at Mass today.