Let me start by saying Wonder Woman is quite possibly the best film of the year. And I'm not just saying that because I was trapped on an airplane and it was the best of the available films.
But why is Wonder Woman the best film? Well let me tell you.
It's because in a movie centered on the horror of war and mankind's genius for destruction, we are called to hope.
We are called to forgive and be forgiven.
And even more importantly, we don't deserve it. Get that thought in your head right now.
We in no way shape or form deserve mercy and forgiveness.
We've achieved much. We fly across the fleecy skies of our beautiful Mother Earth. We explore the wide open and deep places of the earth. We discover the pathways of the brain which carry our thoughts into action.
But we have also dropped bombs and left fathers weeping over their children. We fought over borders and left the young orphans with vengeance burning in their hearts. And we have twisted ourselves and our minds into knots of burning hate.
We've loved and lost, broken hearts and healed souls. We are light and shadow mingled into weird, often awkward and clumsy things called "humans."
We are guilty. Any jury would convict us and send us to our just reward.
But as Diana, aka Wonder Woman, says "it's not about deserve."
It's about what we believe.
Mercy, and love which is the starting point of mercy, are the calling of us all.
We cannot forgive once or twice. We cannot even allow ourselves to only forgive as much as we CAN. We have to forgive as often as we must.
What would life be if a mother could not forgive her daughter an angry word?
What would life be if men and women who have fought each other for years couldn't somehow, someway forgive each other and call peace?
What would life be if we were so consumed with hate at those who broke our hearts we couldn't love again?
Life would be...worthless.
If we define ourselves by only our darkness we would be only half of a real person, if that.
We must define ourselves with love and with mercy. It is light that brings growth and definition to our lives.
Parents are defined by the love and forgiveness they show their children.
Good men and women are defined, not by their conquests, but rather by the compassion they provide.
So extend the hand. Extend the hand a thousand and one times even if a thousand times it is cast aside. Because maybe it takes someone going one step further for us all to get anywhere at all.
Start small maybe. It was St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta who said to do small things with great love.
Forgive your friend the harsh word, extend the hand of compassion to those who are hurting, provide for the poor and the downtrodden. Open your homes to the sick and needy for all nations.
We do this in hope. Hope that we might be forgiven. Even though we do not deserve it.
We still have hope. Forever and always.
So while I am in New Zealand in vacation, I've seen a great deal of talk about the NFL, respect for the flag and kneeling.
I want to address that, but before I do I must add a disclaimer. First, I have always stood for the anthem for the flag of the United States.
My brother is in the U.S. Army and while I am nothing more than a journalist and historian, I will stand for that flag and provide what service I can to make this country "America the Beautiful" in reality.
With that out of the way, let me say I am disgusted there is some debate about this.
But wait, perhaps you you think I believe players are wrong to politicize the game and should stand?
Wrong. Politics has already poisoned much of the dialogue within the U.S.A., and if you believe politics wasn't a part of sports before, well it is now.
But while I do not condemn the kneelers, I do not seek to praise those who are standing. Let me explain.
G.K. Chesterton once said that having the right to do something is not same as "to be right in doing it." That is where this debate truly begins, do players have the right to kneel during this anthem?
In a word: yes.
Have we really sunk so low and so far that we are debating the limit of peaceful protest?
Who is harmed? No one.
Who is forced to participate or watch? No one.
I do not believe this act of kneeling during the anthem the best protest, so in that sense perhaps it is not the right or best thing to do.
But each player has the right to do it if they so choose.
We are a country, a nation, a people founded on the act of disagreement and protest.
Did not the Founding Fathers peacefully and with good intentions submit their grievances to the King of Great Britain?
Did Martin Luther King Jr. not work through marches and words to seek redress for the utter failure and lack of civil rights in this country?
And now come these men and women, who instead of standing upon the field, kneel in silence and call our attention to what they believe to be injustice within our country.
They have this right and let none abridge it. And here is another reason why. It's an old reason but a telling one.
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
Those words should burn in your mind because they are the parting sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
Those words were not just a pledge for the signers of the Declaration. Every American citizen is bound by that deathless vow.
That vow which bound bound a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings together in what would one day become these 50 United States.
We are still a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings and we are still bound together by oaths and promises and by a shared promise that is represented in that piece of star-spangled fabric which soars above our land.
Beneath that flag thousands have died for the millions of us at home.
But beneath that flag, thousands were killed in massacres and for "manifest destiny."
Beneath that flag have laid thousands of coffins carrying the best of our men and women home to rest forever in peace under the earth.
But beneath that flag government failed for decades to truly end segregation and to remember the common brotherhood/sisterhood all men and women have.
And finally, beneath that flag, dozens if not hundreds of athletes kneel for what their conscience demands even as hundreds more stand for what their own conscience demands.
Let us ignore for a moment the Flag code and the NFL regulations which say many things about how to respect the flag and this nation.
Let us look merely at the bonds that bind us to each and every person in this country.
Do these men and women have the right to kneel?
Yes. it has been bought in blood, sweat and tears.
Is it necessarily the best or right way to protest?
Perhaps not. Perhaps time might be better spent speaking and donating money.
But what is right and what someone has the right to do are very different things.
I will continue to stand when the flag is hoisted high above my head, but I shall not judge those who kneel.
Instead, I will listen. I will hear their words, their complaints and I will respond with respect and with empathy.
We're nation founded on disagreement, debate and argument conducted in a civil manner.
I'm sick to death of the hate though, ofthe contempt showered on both the right and the left.
The moment we engage in censorship and decide what free speech is allowed, we've already lost.
And I refuse to lose. I refuse to surrender to hate and extremists. My life, my fortune and my sacred honor are mine and mine alone.
I will stand, but I will be here to help you stand up from kneeling and build a bright, new future when you're ready.
Our lives are filled with people and moments. Sometimes people flash in and out of our lives in a heartbeat. Sometimes they become fixtures as permanent as the nose on our face.
And then there are those who have always been there, in the shadows and in-between spaces, working for our good.
And all of those things, these people I have described can be simplified with two words: kindness and love
A saint once said that love is willing the good of another person above even that of yourself. And this idea wars endlessly with society today.
We go our own way to work or school each day, we check our phones and our Twitter feeds and through all this we are starved for love, for kindness and for all those things which make life worth living.
We do it ourselves. We fail to reach out and offer a meal and a prayer to the homeless couple that approaches us.
We fail to welcome people into our country, our homes and our hearts.
We are afraid of giving.
But here's the thing, the "trick" if you will. Giving, kindness and oh that beautiful thing we call love, never dwindle. They are never divided.
They are multiplied. Our love and our kindness do not go out and plunge into the dark without a sound.
Kindness shouts and screams through the silence of our minds. And love...well love and choosing the good of another is the bright and soft light of the morning.
It's like seeing the face of God and hearing His voice.
So be kind. Love someone, love everyone. Sure, you can disagree with them, fiercely even, but love them all the same.
Because kindness and love are never divided, only multiplied.
And most assuredly, your kindness and your love will return to you when you most need it.
Usually I keep away from direct religious references. Not because I am afraid of acknowledging my faith, anyone who knows me knows how very, very Catholic I attempt to be, but rather because I prefer to weasel my way inside your mind with the faith without your overt knowledge.
Cue diabolical laugh.
But anyway, today I break that rule in order to discuss something dear to my heart. Psalm 86.
It's not just a random number. Well it is, but I didn't pick the Psalm randomly if you catch my meaning.
But before I digress further let me provide the relevant portion of Christian Scripture, Psalm 86:11-13 and verse 16:
"Teach me, Lord, what You want me to do, and I will obey You faithfully; teach me to serve You with all my heart, O Lord my God; I will proclaim Your greatness forever. How great is Your constant love for me! You have saved me from the grave itself...Turn to me and have mercy on me; strengthen me and save me, because I serve You just as my mother did."
This psalm contains many things to me. Devotion, sorrow, love, mercy and a wonderful reference to Mary the Mother of God. But it is more than that.
In essence this Psalm carries EXACTLY what it means to be a Christian. It is devotion to serve and praise God; it is a reminder of our salvation from sin and that the "wage of sin is death"; and of just how we can serve with humility like Mary did.
And I owe a huge debt to the woman who showed it to me. I don't know if I can pay it, but I shall try to make a down payment with this reflection.
God awaits us. He awaits, like He waited for Mary and her "Let it be done unto me, according to Your Word."
We are called to give the same response. In our daily work lives and beyond we must answer His call with devotion. We must remember the salvation that awaits those who walk His path. It won't be easy. But He never promised it would be easy, only that we would not be overcome by our troubles. And after all, He walked up a far harder hill to Calvary for us, so this is the least we can do.
So reach out and ask the Lord to teach you so that you might know His will and how to serve Him. Sometimes the answer will be silence, sometimes it will be a person entering/leaving your life and other times you might hear a small quiet voice whisper to you.
However you are answered, be open to it. I have not always been to my shame, but that is a part of all of our lives.
Yesterday with all our failures, has already happened. Tomorrow with whatever may occur, isn't here yet. We have only today and we must answer Christ. Today.
How will you respond? How do you want to respond to the one who "saved you from the grave itself?"
Thank you and God bless.
This post is dedicated to the woman who showed me Psalm 86. Pax to you.