Returning to Love

It’s hard to put into words what the last 4 years have felt like… A constant and continuous erosion of values and ideals that I subscribe to. Of pointing at The Other and fearing that difference, of turning that difference into hate, of subverting ‘power to do good’ into ‘power to dictate’.

I don’t live in the US, I’m actually thousands of miles away, in the middle of a blue sea, where the sun shines down nearly 365 days a year. And yet, to some extent it felt like I was living there. The globalised world we live in, the 24 hour news cycle, the accessibility to everything and everyone, no matter where or who they are meant that what was said (or tweeted) allllllll that way away had as much an effect close to home. Accountability seems to have gone out of the window wherever we look, truth is a commodity that can be bought, and respect is based on the bottom line.

Wednesday’s inauguration certainly was no magic wand, in fact, the event itself was marred by a marked absence of Native American presence in a land made of divisions and desperate for healing.

But it was a beginning, an important one, one where humanity shone through, where hope took centre stage, and where resilience was the backbone to a better future. Never before was it so clear how empty of humanity the past four years have been than seeing President and First Lady Biden fall into each other’s arms as they were about to enter the white house, supporting and comforting each other at the same time. It was a simple, genuine and authentic moment of being human, and I sobbed.

Pic courtesy of Ben Kerckx on Pixabay

Like many others (everyone!), I was blown away by Amanda Gorman’s poem, standing up from my sofa to shout “Yes!” or punch the air at different points. But a few days on, the message that is staying with me is that shared by Rev. Leo O’Donovan, SJ. It IS love that is needed, it IS love that can heal, it IS love that can reach across divides, it is LOVE we must not be afraid of. May we slowly start our journey back (or onwards) to a place of love.

Gracious and merciful God, at this sacred time we come before you in need, indeed on our knees.

But we come still more with hope, and with our eyes raised anew to the vision of a more perfect union in our land — a union of all our citizens to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

We are a people of many races, creeds, and colors, national backgrounds, cultures, and styles, now far more numerous and our land much vaster than when Archbishop John Carroll wrote his prayer for the inauguration of George Washington 232 years ago.

Archbishop Carroll prayed that you, O Creator of All, would assist with your spirit of  ‘holy counsel and fortitude, the president of these United States, that his administration might be conducted in righteousness and be eminently useful to your people.’

Today we confess our past failures to live according to our vision of equality, inclusion, and freedom for all.

Yet we resolutely commit still more now to renewing the vision, to caring for one another in word and deed, especially the least fortunate among us, and so becoming a light for the world.

There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us — a thrust of the Spirit to cherish and care and stand by others and above all those most in need.  It is called love and its path is to give ever more of itself.

Today it is called American patriotism, born not of power and privilege, but of care for the common good with malice toward none and with charity for all.

For our new president, we beg of you the wisdom Solomon sought when he knelt before you and prayed for an understanding heart so that I can govern your people and know the difference between right and wrong.

We trust in the counsel of the letter of James: “If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you.”

Pope Francis has reminded us how important it is to dream together. “By ourselves,” he wrote, “we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.”

Be with us, Holy Mystery of Love, as we dream together.

Help us under our new president to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love.

To the glory of your name forever. Amen.

Rev. Leo O’Donovan, SJ, a longtime friend and mentor of President Biden’s, delivered this prayer. May we sit with this and remember this, whoever or whatever our respective gods may be.

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