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Jonah, America the Beautiful and the Lord's Prayer

Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM

In churches and in gatherings large and small, Americans sang such patriotic hymns as "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America." Many prayed, often reciting the Lord's Prayer.

I wonder how many of us realized what we were really doing when we sang those songs or prayed the Lord's Prayer. Did we pay attention to the words we sang or uttered?

Take the words of "America the Beautiful," for instance. We sang "God shed his grace on thee," acknowledging that America owes its very existence to Him.

Generations of Americans have recognized that the nation has been singularly blessed by God. This magnificent land - these fruited plains and purple mountains majesty - became the refuge for millions of people the world over seeking the liberty and opportunity never before available to mankind in all history. They found both in the greatest abundance.

Only fools could doubt the presence of God's hands in providing this new world and guiding its destiny. Obviously He had, and has, a divine purpose in placing us under his special protection.

In the Lord's Prayer we say "Thy will be done ..." in effect putting ourselves in God's hands and, if we really mean what we say, leaving our destiny up to Him.

There's a flip side to this: failing to do God's will puts our destiny in our own fallible hands, leaving us hostage to whatever fate our willfulness leads us. God doesn't punish us in the Old Testament manner, hurling thunderbolts at His disobedient children. He simply leaves us to our own devices and corruption and allows us to create our own punishments, something at which we are very adept.

But He's always there, ready to reach down and create order out of the disorder we have brought upon ourselves by turning our backs on Him.

"Thy will be done ..." Do we really think it is God's will that even mention of His name is banned in public observances, that His Commandments may not be displayed in public places, that a nation founded on Judaic-Christian principles cannot acknowledge His existence, that schoolchildren cannot pay homage to Him or seek His guidance?

Is it God's will that this nation upon which he bestowed more blessings than ever given to any other land in all human history should have allowed the horror of the murder for profit by the abortion industry of 40 million unborn children? Or the wanton sale of their body parts? Countless polls have shown that the great majority of Americans view this atrocity as outright murder, yet also believe that it should still be allowed to exist as the legal right of mothers determined to slay the unborn children in their wombs. Can they honestly tell God they want His will to be done?

Is it God's will that pornography has been allowed to become an immensely profitable industry, available to even the youngest of our children, or that the number of divorces that brutalize the children of the families so broken should rival the number of marriages? That marriage itself should be downgraded to a matter of convenience, to be broken for the most trivial of reasons? Or that millions of young couples should avail themselves of the intimacy of marriage without accepting the commitment of marriage?

Obviously it's not. As a result, we have simply told the Lord that it is our will that will be done, and not His. We have therefor put ourselves in the same predicament that befell Babylon and Greece and Rome and countless other empires that turned away from God.

Today we face a perilous and uncertain future in which the horrors of Black Tuesday will be merely a prelude of disasters yet to come. This prosperous nation could, in the blink of an eye, be reduced to penury, with millions of Americans facing the kind of poverty endemic in Third World countries. Black Tuesday was merely a hint of what could come upon us.

This needn't be. We should recall the Book of Jonah, when that prophet warned the people of Nineveh that "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed," if they failed to repent and reform. They did, and Nineveh was spared.

"When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out." (Jonah 2:16)

We can put ourselves in God's loving hands and be assured that whatever happens to us will be because He wills it - knowing that whatever He wills is meant for our own good and to benefit our immortal souls, which in the end is all that matters. As St. Augustine reminded us, "He made us for Himself, and we will not rest until we rest in Him."

In other words, we have to follow the example of the people of Nineveh - repent and reform. That means we have to banish the evils we, as a nation and as a people now tolerate. When we do we can pray "Thy will be done," and mean it.

Until then, God help us, we're on our own.

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In churches and in gatherings large and small, Americans sang such patriotic hymns as America the Beautiful and God Bless America. Many prayed, often reciting the Lord's Prayer. I wonder how many of us realized what we were really doing when we sang those songs or...
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Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM
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