It might be a stretch to think about this “Golden Oldie” in a way which gives positive insights into what could be the “Good Life”. Again, there are many disconcerting ideas and events in today’s world that we cannot escape noticing. In the first reading, it seems we receive the invitation to forget and/or to neglect the hard facts of our everyday negative existence. We all know how to party and to make use of all kinds of diversions. But as Judith and I return to Germany, we have lots of questions, musings, missing answers, but also hope for the future and faith that so many good people will bring about a turn for the better. Our country is engaged in its more or less 15th war. It has a presence in 170 nations on this earth. U.S. Trident subs have nuclear bombs 40 times more powerful that those dropped on Japan 70 years ago, with capabilities of destroying huge swaths of this earth’s surface. According to the July 3, 2015, issue of the Chicago Tribune, firearms are available under strict legal conditions for one of every 800 citizens in Japan, whereas there is one firearm for every one of the 300,000,000 U.S. citizens, with very few restrictions. Land mines and bombs, napalm and agent orange usage from past wars, are still being unearthed in various countries except in the U.S. which has never had a foreign invading military presence since the War of 1812. There was 9/11, but far more people die every year on our highways, or as the result of the use of firearms, than are killed by foreign terrorists. The narcissistic super-rich are very tight with their ever increasing wealth and unfairly critical of those who can barely make ends meet. Patriotism is called for in getting more and more into military service. But the returning veterans are left to themselves too often when dealing with PTSD and physical injuries. Real conflicts, and not in the military sense, should be fought against poverty, racism, lack of jobs and wages, for good and accessible education, for integration, and for recognition of various cultures and religions.
There have to be other ways, besides war, of stemming the world-wide flood of refugees. They leave their homelands and flee to a supposedly better life in Europe, or in the U.S., or in the Far East because conditions do not allow them to live a decent life in their homelands. The attitudes, actions and financial profiteering of the leaders of these countries must be faced, addressed and dealt with head-on. The actions against drug traffic are not effective because again they involve wars. Why not simply set up a movement to buy up the land or pay the present poor drug plant growers money to grow other crops? Where is the U.S. Department of Peace? The second reading gives us pause to reflect on the strength and direction of our value systems. Death, or its possibility, is ever-present in our daily living. It’s harder to bear without suffering grief, without family and friends, without pets, especially dogs. In a way, we're all walking each other home.
The picture should be self-explanatory. It calls to mind the eight Beatitudes. The text should give us additional cause to reflect on how well or poorly we make them highlights in our lives. Summed up, we are challenged to be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure of heart. Also, there are those who mourn, who seek righteousness, who are peace-makers, who suffer persecution for beliefs and ideas. All will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.
As one thinker has put it, at his own life’s end, and as he enters the Kingdom of God, he will be surprised to see who isn’t there, who is there, and that he himself is there. Amen.