May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Most of our ancestors, and some of us too, left native lands to come to Canada with the hope of being a part of a great nation ? It took sacrifice but the Promise was too big to ignore. And indeed Canada has become a great nation, it is a blessing to people throughout the world. It’s appropriate that we celebrate what Canada has become on this day because in the Church, it is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, a day of recommitment by Jesus to His Mission, the day He took on anew the Holy Mantle and Sacrifice for the Salvation of the whole world.
We, Canada, are in our one hundred and fiftieth year celebrating our past and we are recommitting to our mission in the world too, to be a blessing, refuge and good neighbour.
Canada is the only country founded on its stated principles of Peace, Order and Good Government, and it has done really well following those principles. There is another Bible text appropriate for today. God had handed to Moses the Law, we call that law the Ten Commandments, and Moses speaking to the Israelites on behalf of God, says “You must observe [these laws] diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people !’ ” (Deuteronomy 4:6) Our doctrine of Peace, Order and Good Government is based on the Commandments and we having kept them are known as a wise and discerning people too.
Many centuries earlier than Moses God had made a covenant with Abraham that his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, would each become fathers of great nations and that Isaac’s descendants would be a blessing to all people. The Jews, the descendants of Isaac, indeed have been a great nation and a blessing, we cannot count the number of Jews who have led the world in every field of human endeavour. And the Arab nation, the descendants of Ishmael, have led the world in the fields of philosophy and mathematics, architecture, medicine and design, and became a great nation too. God’s covenant has been fulfilled but God laid down laws for the Jews, Isaac’s descendants, to follow, unfortunately they didn’t.
Moses never made it to the Promised Land, he died in sight of it, but I often wonder if he had lived would things have turned out differently. When they occupied the Promised Land the Israelites pillaged it and mistreated and cast out the people, the Canaanites, who lived there. It took some time but their behaviour caught up with them and the Romans threw the Jews out of the Promised Land in 70 AD, not to return until 1948, nearly two thousand years later. They are a blessing but no longer a ‘great nation’. The Arabs, Ishmael’s descendants followed a different prophet and are so divided amongst themselves that the term ‘great nation’ no longer applies to them either.
Because neither nation followed the laws laid down by God, which included such simple things as loving God and loving one’s neighbour – loving God is plain enough – loving neighbour includes taking care of widows, orphans, the homeless, strangers, aliens, immigrants and refugees – they didn’t so both nations lost their greatness.
Canada can be duly proud of its legacy, it has led the world in inventions in every branch of science, technology, medicine and education. It has built a deserved name for peacekeeping and bravery in arms. It has led the world in care of the stranger and the alien. Its social welfare system is the envy of much larger and richer nations. It has led the world in charity towards others. Yet it has treated its indigenous peoples in a shameful way, much like the Israelites treated the Canaanites, the indigenous people of Israel. And it has in the past treated immigrants badly; Jews and people whom we call ‘people of colour’ from Asia and Africa and Europe too, with slavery, head taxes, discrimination and internment camps. We may only be accepting of our past if we are make amends and ask forgiveness for our mistakes; only then can we go forward.
It is my prayer that because we have not always followed God’s Law well, we will not suffer the same fate as the Jews and lose our land, or be like the Arabs, and have our Provinces and Territories constantly bickering amongst each other and achieving very little of the Promise we inherited ! I only speak this way because I love this country. I am an immigrant and a Canadian citizen, and want Justice to flow down like the great St. Lawrence and the Mackenzie rivers for all our people (Amos 5:24). I don’t want history to repeat itself badly with us and for us to lose this land.
God laid down principles and laws for us, for all peoples, to follow. We, all of us, are responsible for seeing that Canada lives by those laws and takes real care of folks who are in need, and the disadvantaged who regrettably are numbered in the thousands within our coasts. As to taking care of this Land God gave us what used to be called ‘Dominion’ over it, which today means that we are to take care of our environment and encourage other nations to do the same.
If there was another Promised Land Canada is it, from the glorious Rocky Mountains, to the resource rich Shield, to the bread basket of the world, to this industrial heartland, to the resourceful east coast, to the oxygen giving North, and the world’s refrigerator, the Arctic. If we are wise our environment should be high on our agenda as we experience climate change and risk losing our Promise through indifference.
We have been richly blessed. Because we enjoy a wonderful standard of living it is our God given call to help others, to raise others up to our level. This means we put others first in Christian charity. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone but millions are starving – surely hunger cannot be Canada’s vision for tomorrow ! There is a great need for peace in this world – surely Canada’s vision extends to teaching good government to others. There is a great need to fight disease – surely Canada’s vision includes sharing the fruits of its research with the desperate. There is a great need to turn away from excessive use of fossil fuels to save the air we breathe and the water we drink – surely Canada’s vision can leave some resources in the ground for future generations.
My words so far have mainly been about physical things. But we are more than physical beings, we are spiritual beings too: every one of us has an inner self, that is, who we really are. If we are to continue to be a great nation we cannot lose sight of the spiritual side of every Canadian, we must not be spiritually blind, it would be like being colour blind. Would the colour of flowers matter ? You could never get joy from the colour of your wife’s or your husband’s eyes. You’d never really know if your steak was done just right. We would miss the fullness of life found in Faith. We need more than physical comforts and a life cannot be measured in just dollars and cents. The person who finishes with the most toys doesn’t really win but a person who has lived for others knowing that Christ died for others, who has led a life inspired by the Gospel and loves God and neighbour is the one whose life really is valuable to Canada. It’s a remarkable thing for when we give ourselves to others our spirits grow. I hope that the only one Great Spirit in Canada is the collection of all Christian spirits working for good, building Canada under the watchful eye of the one true God. Canada was founded on Christian principles; it is our call to ensure that Canada does not lose the Christian vision that inspired our predecessors.
We have become a great nation, through God’s gift to us, it is undoubtedly the best country in the world, with its greatest potential yet to be realised, and we will become that greater nation, if we follow the faith that we were founded on and which we are called to follow, that being faith in Jesus Christ; if we do, then all the good things we hope for will be given to us (Matthew 21:22).
Therefore on this once in a lifetime day when we celebrate yesterday and tomorrow, I ask you to pray that we will be attentive to God’s call and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will continue to be our Guide, then He will bless Canada as His people ! Amen.