Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

A special day set aside in our nation to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

Thanksgiving has a long history in our country, but the theme of giving thanks goes much further back in history, as recorded in the Bible. Two articles point out this significance as Thanksgiving this year is in an extremely rare coincidence with Hanakkah and the end of this Thanksgiving weekend coincides with the First Sunday of Advent.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources for future generations. It is especially appropriate this year as Hanukkah actually coincides with Thanksgiving on the calendar.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview has been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago

President John F. Kennedy addressing Congress on May 25, 1961 on reaching the Moon within the decade. Credit: NASA

In the Fall of 1963, I was in third grade. On that Friday afternoon, my class first heard the principal's announcement that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Being in Catholic school, we immediately began saying Hail Marys. Shortly after, came the announcement that the President had died, more prayers and my teacher, Sr. Mary Alphonse, saying that we would see this event in our history books.

President Kennedy's Administration made history with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the partial nuclear test ban treaty, the Peace Corps, civil rights and, of course, the reach for the Moon.

Like any historical figure, Kennedy was a complex person in turbulent times. We later learned of the extent of his medical problems and of his personal moral flaws. At the same time, he showed the leadership skills to inspire American citizens to aspire to public service either formally, by entering government, or by in whatever way asking "what you can do for your country".

The world was in a tense situation with the Cold War at that time. However the nation's recent experience in winning World War II, the post-war prosperity, the growing attention to civil rights for all Americans, and the dawning of the Space Age combined to generate a "can-do" spirit in society. This spirit of the time enabled JFK to ascend to leadership as much as his leadership helped further that spirit.

We can only speculate what would have occurred had there been no shooting in Dallas and JFK had completed one or two terms as president. In the tensions of our present day, may we not forget that crises can bring forth leadership that can find opportunities for accomplishment. May we never forget that our future as a nation and as human civilization depends on adhering to or recapturing the fundamental values of faith, life, liberty and human dignity that have enabled our advancement so far.

Finally, the sudden death of a young leader fifty years ago reminds us of the fleetingness and uncertainty of our temporal lives. May we be always mindful of the eternal things promised by God when our time of faithfully living each of our temporal lives comes to an end.