Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty And Justice For All

At high noon today, on the steps of the West Front of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., a former Senator from Illinois will speak the words of the oath of office as they are written in the Constitution of the United States: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” In all likelihood, he will add four more words: “So help me God”.

Today’s first reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that, when God makes a promise, he swears by himself, since there is no one greater than he to swear by. Men, on the other hand, swear by someone greater than themselves. In both cases, the oath confirms what is promised. When the first President, George Washington, added the words, “So help me God” to the constitutional oath of office, he did so with a prayer, and in the hope, that God would give him the grace to fulfill the oath he had just taken. So too has every President, who has added these four words at the end of the oath.

Today’s first reading encourages us to hope. It reminds us of the promise God gave to Abraham, that he would become the father of many nations. And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham received what God had promised. This weekend, we are also celebrating the 80th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on January 15, 1929. In the 1960s, Reverend King voiced his hope that one day people in this nation would not be judged “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” At the time, it was a dream, but the non-violent witness of his followers, and eventually, the response of this nation brought that dream closer to reality. The inauguration of the 44th president was beyond imagining, four decades ago, but it was paved by the hope and the heroism of the early civil rights pioneers.

Brothers and sisters, God will be mindful of the love we have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve his people. Yet we must not be lulled into complacency, because the struggle to keep our eye set on the prize, for the day when we will truly be “"one nation” cannot be achieved until each and every one of us acknowledges, not only in word, but in deed, that no matter what our differences might be, we are "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

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