PITY THE NATION – Kahil Gibran
“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.
Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of The Prophet
PITY THE NATION – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet Laureate (After Khalil Gibran)
Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerers
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
With force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty“
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet
Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, social activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration. Ferlinghetti is best known for his first collection of poems
There is, of course, a SOLUTION, an ANTIDOTE to this realization: Christians may find it in the Gospel, Jews in the Books of the Prophets. Here’s my homily for Sunday, 2 February 2020:
The Presentation of the Lord Sunday 2 February 2020
There are times when we all become consumed with longing–desires for an end to all the divisiveness in our nation. For all the problems in our weary world, we insist on visions of peace, we surrender to HOPE that reconciliation-true reconciliation between hostile peoples (yes, even in our families) will become realities; that all people will be free to know and Love God and their neighbor as themselves.
This is the longing, the hope, the faith of Simeon and Anna, the elder wisdom figures in the temple to which Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus for his Presentation and Dedication to God. They grounded their lives on this longing, allowing their minds to keep focused on the blessings they experienced as part of a greater promise for all people.
We, too, our sorrows and disappointments notwithstanding, yes, even during these cynical times, must follow their example. We must not capitulate to the angers of the day.
This is especially important for those of us in our senior years because as we get older it gets easier and easier to hold on to memories of the negative events, the worst events of our lives. Far more readily do bad memories enter our consciousness than those that savor the good times. Today, on the Presentation of the Lord, we must reclaim the faith into which WE have been baptized. We were baptized into the promises of Christ that all life is blessed. God has brought us to this day for God’s good purposes. Yes, we’ve had bad times, sorrowful times, but also times of blessing–experiences of true love for us and with others. We must have faith that we will have these again.
In this the early decades of the 21st century, Simeon and Anna must become our Patron Saints. They had difficult lives, lived to an old age, but they held on to hope.
Hope is what Simeon and Anna saw in the child Jesus –hope that God’s Will would, in God’s good time, become the lived reality of the nations. Of course, their life experiences, like ours, brought them realistic expectations. Simeon acknowledges that often enough the true longings of human hearts encounters opposition–“contradicted.” Many people try the thwart the true, the good, the beautiful, often, but not always, because of their own sorrows and sufferings.
Simeon says this to Mary for the benefit of all. He acknowledges the reality of evil while naming its antidote: live with humility and honesty so that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” This means that identification with the sorrows of others will liberate evil from the world. As we name a comprehensive TRUTH–the good and the bad from all sectors of God’s peoples–all perspectives—Grace will inspire us to take the next steps, the right steps forward.
Saint Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians: love entails that people will “not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoice only in the truth.’’ In John’s Gospel Jesus insists “The Truth Will Set You Free.” As we come to the Eucharist today may we ask the Lord to strengthen us in the PROMISES OF CHRIST and truly believe and live confident that hope is eternal, and that hope is NOW for “THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND.”