What comes to your mind when someone asks you to define “great”? If we look at the definition of greatness we see that it is defined as “exceptionally high quality; the quality or state of being large in size; the quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent.” Greatness, therefore, has to do with power, size, and quality. To be great means to be the best, right?
As we rapidly move to November where we will elect a new president, it’s no wonder that both of the candidates want to build a stronger America and to make America great again… and they each have their ideas on how to do that. One candidate has even decided to us this slogan for his campaign- promising us that if we elect him that our country can once again be “great”.
But I wonder if either of the candidates can deliver on this promise to change America. It is possible for one man or one woman to accomplish this? I don’t think so and I think it’s foolish of us to believe that either candidate has this power.
So if they can’t change America, who can? Is it even possible?
When we look at our nation and we are pained over the troubles we see in our communities, we wonder what it will take to fix the problems surrounding us. It’s easy to look to the leaders in our nation to solve those issues. It’s normal to expect them to come up with plans to end poverty, to make healthcare affordable for all people, to end the murder of innocent babies, to end our involvement in wars, to balance our budget, and to figure out a plan to control immigration problems. That’s why we voted them into office. It is their job… no, their duty, to come up with solutions to our country’s problems.
But there is a problem. These politicians will never be able to “make America great again”. They can’t. How can someone who lies to their constituents, stages massive cover ups, stoops to name calling, refuses to protect the citizens of the United States here and abroad, bullies others, demeans women, degrades immigrants, threatens to segregate or alienate a part of the population because of their religious beliefs, or advocates for the killing of innocent babies, make America great? They can’t… the politicians before us don’t possess the necessary tools to do this.
But there are people who do have these tools and can work to make America great again. Most are afraid to do so.
Friends, YOU AND I are the ones who will have to make the changes that will help our country to become “great” once again. It is each of us who possess the tools and the ability to make a difference, to change the heart of our country, and to bring her back not to greatness but to goodness.
Our Founding Fathers didn’t write the Declaration of Independence so that we could become “great”; no, they wrote it so that we could proclaim that God endowed us with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and so that we could pursue these rights in safety. There was no worry about making the country great but instead their focus was making a country where people would be free from all tyranny, including that of their leaders. In fact, these honorable and valiant men were so dedicated to this cause that they closed the Declaration with the words “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Consider that again… they were willing to sacrifice everything- their lives, their fortune, and their honor- for goodness. Can our candidates today say the same thing? Are they willing to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their honor so that our country will heal and we can hope to live in peace?
In 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin addressed the President saying, “God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Franklin knew that without God’s help that they could not be successful in their attempts to establish a new Constitution that would protect and guide the citizens of the new country.
Our candidates are worried about protecting themselves. They are willing to lay down with thieves and do whatever it takes to discredit the other opponent. They are willing to turn from God and righteousness in order to “win”. Where is the honor in their actions or in their words?
How do we regain this honor, this willingness to sacrifice for the good of others? How do we become like our Founding Fathers who sought not greatness and glory but peace and liberty?
We must choose to live our lives purposefully. We must choose to let go of our ego and embrace “littleness”. If we wish to be first, we must become last. We must rely upon God, as our Forefathers did, and we must build our lives firmly in His hands and under His protection.
If we want to experience true greatness we must be kind, loving, helpful, and honest. We must always be humble. We must do the right thing and do it faithfully. We must handle oppositions and trials with grace, patience, and wisdom. We have to ask for help when we don’t have the answers and we must be willing to listen to the ideas of others.
To become great we must elevate others. We can’t belittle them or point out their imperfections. We can’t tear them down in order to build ourselves up. We must take care of one another.
We must protect the innocent. We must respect life and honor each and every person. We have to realize that dignity doesn’t depend on age, location (in the womb, in a nursing home, in prison, etc.), ability, skin color, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or any other qualifier.
We must be peacemakers.
We must be meek.
We must be merciful.
We must change our own hearts first. Once we have done this we must bring what we have learned to our families for the family is the “primary and vital cell of society”. It is here that we can foster love or hate- love or hate that will then be carried out into the world.
Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” We can see how the breakdown of our society is in direct correlation with the breakdown of family life. When we don’t teach our children respect, honor, sacrifice, and love, we see less and less of this in society. If we wish to see our society become more honorable, kinder, merciful, and “great” once again, we must teach this first at home.
Frederick Douglass penned, “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” We can’t look to the candidates to make our country great again. We must look to one another and more importantly to God. God calls us to be humble, to be merciful, to be kind, and to be charitable. If we can relearn these virtues and pass them on to our children we stand a great chance at reclaiming the goodness on which our country was founded.
Christ modeled true greatness for us. It was upon the cross that He showed us what we need to do in order to be great as well. We have to willingly sacrifice for others; we must humble ourselves before God, and we must become little.
“To restore man, who had been laid low by sin, to the heights of divine glory, the Word of the eternal Father, though containing all things within His immensity, willed to become small. This He did not by putting aside His greatness but by taking to Himself our littleness.” St. Thomas Aquinas