Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think aboutthese things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
On the morning of the inauguration Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, along with some family, friends, and congressional leaders attended Mass at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. The priest at Saint Matthews, Kevin O’Brien — a Jesuit, preached an inspiring sermon focussing on, among other things, the above text from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
Fr. Kevin said, “My deepest prayer for you today, as a priest, citizen and friend, is that you always remember that the Lord is near and no matter the sound and fury around you, that God wants to give you peace, a deep-seated peace that will sustain you.”
What an incredibly pastoral assurance. I suspect that these sorts of words of assurance, for now President Joe Biden , have been a source of strength throughout his life as a public servant. I say that because the man who is the current occupant of the White House is a lifelong man of faith. He has had to overcome an incredible number of challenges from a difficult childhood, to the loss of his first wife and child, to the loss of his son Beau Biden, to the pain of watching his country being dismantled to the point of a bloody insurrection. Throughout all of it, the current president has always leaned on his faith.
There is some comfort knowing that the man holding the highest office in one of the mightiest nations on earth text comfort in the words of scripture, the practice of faith, and the call to discipleship. Beyond that, there is a great deal of comfort in the words of Father Kevin O’Brien. “no matter the sound and fury around you, God wants to give you peace… A deep-seated peace.”
I don’t know about you, but right about now I sure as hell I am in need of being reminded that God wants to give us peace. Given our current circumstances and what we’ve all been facing, from job losses, to separation from family and friends, to facing death and dying separate it from loved ones, to postponing or having to cancel large family events, to the deaths of thousands of our senior citizens, the exhaustion and exasperation of our medical and Frontline workers, our frustrations around vaccines, The constant deluge of the politicization of a pandemic, and the last four years of abusive, churlish, and incendiary behaviour by the President of the United States. These have not been easy days.
So hearing those words from Father Kevin O’Brien brought tears to my eyes. Tears, because I do feel some sense of relief about the change of leadership in the United States. But more than that, tears because I believe I am, like many others, tired of it all. I like many of you suffer COVID fatigue. And like all of God’s beloved, I needed to hear a kindly pastor’s voice rise above the din and reassuringly say – “God wants to give you peace!”
I realize we’re all tired. I realize we all want this to be over. I realize we all want the vaccine today or tomorrow. I also know that we need perspective. I am praying that we might all realize that we are about one year removed from the first case of COVID-19 in Canada. If at that time I had said to you that we would have a vaccine by now, you would think I was nuts. And here we are a year later having been delivering vaccines for a month. We are going to get through this. We will get back to doing all of the things that reminds us of how very much God wants us to have peace.
So perhaps we can all take a page out of Joe Biden‘s playbook. Despite the fact that in person worship may not be happening in many communities, our churches are all open. That is to say, caring isn’t canceled, praying is permitted, reaching out to others is encouraged, reminding another of his or her belovedness is totally cool, lamenting is allowed, scripture continues to offer solace and still provokes us to discipleship. Participate in live stream worship, sign up for a small group study on zoom, click on that link for a midweek prayer service, keep a good physical distance… Yes… But draw closer to one another than ever in the spirit. We may have all tired of COVID-19, but as Fr. O’Brien has reminded all of us, God has not tired of us.