(How many roads must a man walk down? Bob Dylan)
150 years ago, the horrendous Civil War was being waged. 100 years ago WW I began with deep tones of religious fervor in Europe. 75 years ago, WW II began with consequences for people in the entire world. 50 years ago, the questionable 11-year Vietnam War began for the USA. 25 years ago, the "Iron Curtain” was finally swept away in Europe. In all these events, patriotism played a role.
On Memorial Day and July 4, The USA celebrates patriotism. A dictionary entry says patriotism is “nationalism, the zealous support of one’s country". But we can ask, whether that includes all the people within the country. How do we act patriotically? It’s years since I've attended a high school sports event, but my memory recalls that the national anthem was sung by all before the start of the game. Is it still the custom? Is this the national expression of patriotism?
In Germany, the national anthem is only sung for visiting heads of state and for international professional sports events. Does patriotism mean "American exceptionalism” with its 75 years of almost unending wars? The ten-point Patriot Act was enacted after 9/11. Do we here really know what that development means for primarily US citizens?
Solomon in the first reading asks for a God-listening, a wise and mature heart, one with the ability to lead and govern well. This can be seen as loyalty and allegiance to the human race, a good form of patriotism. This patriotism is not a pretense for wars, death and destruction in a nation, of which there have been plenty in the history of Israel.
If you ask a dissident or conscientious objector what patriotism means or should mean, you’ll get positive responses, such as, accountability, justice, sensitivity, sacrifice.
Some of the responses with negative meanings could mean militarism, exceptionalism, triumphalism, and so forth.
In the second reading, one could transfer St. Paul's meaning of a solid basis with Christ, who stands first in the line of humanity he restored, to the notion of genuine patriotism.
In the gospel, it would be a stretch to find a basis for patriotism as we may know it. When the curtain comes down in history, the angels will have separated the good from the bad. It will not be fellow citizens doing it in advance. But a truly patriotic person is aware of the meaning of his actions. Such a person is considerate, positive , outgoing, generous, and pointed in the right direction. AMEN