Fr. John Kha Tran
They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-two students filing into the already crowded auditorium. With their rich maroon gowns flowing and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and Moms freely brushed away tears.
This class would NOT pray during the commencements, not by choice, but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it.
The principal and several students were careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling. They gave inspirational and challenging speeches, but no one mentioned divine guidance and no one asked for blessings on the graduates or their families. The speeches were nice, but they were routine until the final speech received a standing ovation.
A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone. He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then, it happened.
All 92 students, every single one of them, suddenly SNEEZED!!!!
The student on stage simply looked at the audience and said, 'GOD BLESS YOU!'
And he walked off the stage...
Under God or Without God
Last Wednesday we celebrated July 4th, the birthday of our nation. Our country was founded upon God. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, was founded upon the fact that God is our protector. We are one nation Under God. At the end of the Constitution, George Washington declared, “done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.”
I like the expressed assertion, “in the year of our Lord.” The founders of our nation and the authors of the Constitution of the United States of America were men of faith. They acknowledged and ratified the Constitution in the year of our Lord. We became a great nation because we lived in accordance with the teachings of God and faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our forefathers put forth the truth and the tradition that our nation is under God. We are subjected to God.
We are witnessing in our modern times that the government and many of our people are trying to put God out of our government and out of public life. God is not allowed to be taught or acknowledge in our public schools. The Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed in government’s properties or public squares. We are moving from a nation under God to a nation without God. In the minds of our forefathers, God was our protector and the Bible was our inspiration. Today, many of our people and government’s leaders see God as the oppressor and the teachings of the Bible as limitation to our freedom and irrelevant to modern life. Consequently we have grown up with a generation of people without Christian values. There is no secret that the U. S. Government is promoting contraceptive birth controls, abortions, same sex marriages in our own country as well as over the world. Our country, our government, our people are putting God aside.The new government Healthcare reform laws also attempt to force the Church and Catholics to obey the government rather than God.
When we put God aside, evil will step in. Many horrors things are happening around us, crimes, murders, rape, promiscuity, cheatings at all level from elementary to college and university levels. Cheatings and dishonesties are happening in families, in businesses as well as in state and federal governments. All the evil that is happening in our country is happening because we are putting God out of our life.
The Catholic Church and the Catholic bishops have been criticized as a right-wing religious when they speak up to voice their concerns for our nation. When Catholic peoples follow the teachings of the Church and listen to the Holy Father and their bishops, they are accused of being fanatical Catholics and the agents of the Vatican’s.
It is important for us to listen to the words of God today. Jesus came to his home town and people did not want to accept him. They recognized the wisdom and the power in Jesus, but they took offense at him because his teachings did not fit to their understandings of Him. He was from one of them. Members of his family were among them. He came from an ordinary family like them. “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?” They questioned his authority. They asked good questions, but they did not take times to find out the truth about Jesus Christ. Because of their lack of faith, Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deed there. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Many people today also are questioning the authority of the Church, the authority of the Pope and the authority of the bishops. They question, “Who are these men? Who gives them authority?” They do not take times to study the history of the Church that Jesus has established. They use the sexual scandals committed by some priests of the Church to dismiss the teaching authority of the Church.
You and I are Catholics. We are Christians. We are special to God and to our country. Like the prophets in the Old Testament, we have to stand up with the Church to show what it means to be followers of Christ today. We learn from the Old Testament that whenever the people of Israel remained faithful to God, God protected them. God took care of them and God fed them. God did everything for them. He led them to victory. The most significant one was the story of the Exodus. God protected and defended his people against the power of Pharaoh. Throughout the Old Testament, whenever God was there to support his people, they thrived, and whenever the people of Israel failed to remain faithful to God, their destiny was very grim and bleak.
God said to Ezekiel, “I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.”
God is telling us today, “I am sending you to the people and the government of the United States, rebels who have rebelled against me . . . Hard face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.” We are being sent to tell our people and our government leaders that we have freedom of choices. This is God’s given gift to us. We should lead our people to acknowledge God and guide our people to choose God and to choose to live according to God’s standards. It is irresponsible to take a neutral stand for the sake of freedom and democracy and let people choose evil against God. It is wrong to use freedom and democracy to indulge immoral life styles. Freedom of choice and democracy should be used to promote higher standard of living.
A Higher Standard of Living
Max Lucado tells the story of a man who had been a closet slob most of his life. He just couldn't comprehend the logic of neatness. Why make up a bed if you're going to sleep in it again tonight? Why put the lid on the toothpaste tube if you're going to take it off again in the morning? He admitted to being compulsive about being messy.
Then he got married. His wife was patient. She said she didn't mind his habits . . . if he didn't mind sleeping on the couch. Since he did mind, he began to change. He said he enrolled in a 12-step program for slobs. A physical therapist helped him rediscover the muscles used for hanging up shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder. His nose was reintroduced to the smell of Pine Sol. By the time his in-laws arrived for a visit, he was a new man.
But then came that moment of truth. His wife went out of town for a week. At first he reverted to the old man. He figured he could be a slob for six days and clean up on the seventh. But something strange happened. He could no longer relax with dirty dishes in the sink or towels flung around the bathroom or clothes on the floor or sheets piled up like a mountain on the bed.
What happened? Simple. He had been exposed to a higher standard of living. (Billy D. Strayhorn, Thunder in the Desert).
God is sending you and me to challenge the people of our nation to a higher standard of living. You might be accused of being right wing religious fanatics. They might not listen to you but at least they will have heard the message from God. God will not be able to do miracles to save our country if you and I are not willing to believe in God on behalf of our nation. God can be amazed at your faith in Him. You can do it. I can do it. Let the people of our nation be amazed at our Faith in God. Let’s continue to say “God bless you” and “God bless America!”