Learn the sermon Joe Biden heard on the morning of inauguration day
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The following is Sermon President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who were heard by the Religion News Service at the Inauguration Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Apostle Matthew on Wednesday morning, Jan.
It was delivered by Rev. Kevin O’Brien, a Jesuit priest and president of Santa Clara University, a Catholic school.
Sixty years ago, John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to become President of the United States, attended mass at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown on the morning of his inauguration. Today our President-Elect and Dr. Biden family and friends gathered to begin this inauguration day of another Catholic President in the same spirit of prayer and thanksgiving. As is so often the case in your public and private life and during the Campaign, Joe and Jill, you established this day on your faith and the familiar readings and prayers of these sacred rituals.
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With our elected Vice President and her family, you come with humility and hope and ask for God’s blessings and protection, encouragement and strength as you serve our country. Our Lord delights in this sacred desire to do good and responds with both a promise and a noble commission.
First, the noble commission.
The reading of the Gospel comes from Luke (chap. 4, verses 14-21), which corresponds to Jesus’ inaugural address. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus goes to Nazareth, visits the synagogue and intervenes deeply in his Jewish tradition to tell his neighbors what his public life is about. Citing the prophet Isaiah, whom we heard in the first reading (chap. 58, verses 6-11), he promises to care for the poor, to free the oppressed and to free the people from their burdens.
I am sure that today’s inaugural address will take a little longer than the brief reading of Jesus from the Jewish scriptures! But knowing the Bidens, I am confident that the substance of today’s inaugural address will reflect the message of Jesus, as your public service is enlivened by the same belief in helping and protecting people and advancing justice and reconciliation, especially for those who too often are searched by and left behind, the people whose votes you have raised in the campaign and throughout your public life.
This is your noble mission. This is the divine invitation for all of us, regardless of our belief background or life path.
As you live out this mission as a servant leader, I will also remind you of the Lord’s promise, so beautifully proclaimed in the second reading of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (chap. 4, verses 4-9): “The Lord is Near. Do not be afraid at all, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your petitions known to God. …. Then the God of peace will be with you. “
We can look forward to a country very much because of you and the leadership of Kamala Harris. Each day you will strive to heal the wounds of our nation, reconcile differences, and bring us together. You know the challenges ahead and the service costs too well. My deepest prayer for you today as a priest, citizen and friend is that you always remember that the Lord is near and that God wants to give you peace, a deep seated peace that wants to support you.
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Today let’s all hear the good news: The Lord is near, so there is no need to worry or be afraid. One of the surest signs of God’s closeness to us are the people God sends us. Joe and Jill, all of the people you have gathered here in this cathedral – and so many more – love and support you and will be with you as this new adventure begins in your service life. This large gathering of family and friends includes those close to you in the fellowship of Heavenly Saints, including your parents and your beloved beau. In the love of God that connects heaven and earth, they are with you today.
We can only imagine the prayers Kennedy offered in Holy Trinity Church six decades ago. As today, our prayers rise to the God who promises to be with us and who gives us a noble mission to make this world a fairer and gentler place.
When we accept both our noble commission and our divine promise, something remarkable happens. In the words of the prophet Isaiah that we heard: “The light will break forth like the dawn.” After too much darkness, dawn is breaking on this opening day. Let us see the dawn together, brothers and sisters, encouraged by our faith and civic belief, full of promise and hope.
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