Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10
This 4th Sunday after Easter is sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” That’s because in today’s final reading (Jn. 10:1-10), Yeshua identifies himself in those terms, and the responsorial from the Book of Psalms (23:1-6) is the very familiar selection that begins with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”
What often goes unrecognized in such readings are their highly politicized meanings. In Jewish tradition, they describe the qualities scripturally idealized in Israel’s leadership. All of them, “The Book” says should be “good shepherds” at the service of their flocks.
The readings are particularly relevant this week when our incumbent president has declared his intention to run for a second term. His declaration has raised questions about the nature of American democracy.
In addition, he is described by many as running “unopposed,” despite strong challenges from two fellow party members, Marianne Williamson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK).
In fact, Williamson’s domestic agenda offers a clear alternative to Biden’s. The same is true of Kennedy’s foreign policy directions.
Taken together Williamson and Kennedy suggest an interesting president-vice president duo.
With that in mind, let’s break convention by evaluating Biden and his opposition in the light of today’s liturgical readings.
Biden’s Candidacy & Democracy
Yes, just last week, octogenarian Joe Biden declared that he wants to be U.S. president for another four years.
Given concerns about his declining mental capacities (and even his biological continence), that’s quite breathtaking.
Nevertheless, it’s okay with the New York Times (NYT). Their morning-after editorial reminded readers that
“Strange as it may sound, the American government can function without a healthy president. The U.S. marched toward victory in World War II while Franklin Roosevelt was ailing in 1944 and 1945. Four decades later, the government managed its relationship with a teetering Soviet Union while Ronald Reagan’s mental capacities slipped. In each case, White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders performed well despite the lack of a fully engaged leader.”
In other words, it’s all happened before. So, don’t worry. It’s somehow the American way. There are historical precedents for governance under incompetent figurehead presidents who willy-nilly have surrendered power to unelected bureaucrats.
And there should be no debate about it.
I mean, it’s also fine with NYT editors that Biden’s simple declaration was enough for the National Democratic Committee (NDC) to decree no need for presidential debates on the Democratic side.
And this despite those two other declared candidates for Democratic leadership, viz., Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Currently, Williamson is polling in double figures. And if a primary between her and Biden were held today with voters under 50, she would win by a landslide. RFK’s numbers are similarly on the rise. He’s polling at 14% — well above several of Trump’s rivals considered to be legitimate candidates and worthy of debating him.
Nonetheless, no voice for Williamson and Kennedy. No debate. That’s democracy American style.
And by the way, all of this takes no account of the fact that even a clear majority of staunch Democrats though somehow approving of Biden’s first-term performance, wish that the old man would forgo running for a second term.
He’s just too old.
Biden vs. Williamson
All of this raises questions about “American” democracy. Is it really a democracy? I mean apparently, we’ll vote for some old white guy who may well be losing his mind. However, in the end, we’re just choosing neocons like Jake Sullivan, Victoria Nuland, and Antony Blinken and anonymous “White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders”?
What a shame – literally!
In terms of today’s readings, we already know the neocon agenda. It has nothing to do with care for people. They ignore us completely. Their agenda is spelled out clearly by NATO and in the declaration of The Project for the New American Century composed by Victoria Nuland‘s husband, the arms merchant, Robert Kagan. Domestically their program comprises tax breaks for the rich, privatization of public services, and market deregulation. That’s Neoconism. It’s unjust. But old Joe’s promise is that his version will be less painful than the Republicans’ outright fascism.
Internationally, Biden’s neocon program is:
- Amerika Uber Alles – i.e., the superiority of 4.1% of the world’s population over the other 95.9.
- No tolerance of economic or military rivals.
- Forever wars.
- Bombing, sanctions, and regime change for the West’s former colonies who dare chart their own paths.
- In general, keeping the Russians out, Americans in, and the Germans down.
- Unconditional support for Ukraine
Now compare that with Williamson’s domestic policy. Most prominently, it calls for:
- Medicare for all.
- Transformation of our nation’s primary and secondary schools into “palaces of learning.”
- Universally free college education.
- Government sponsorship of a serious national conversation about race and reparations.
- Empowerment of labor unions.
- Infrastructure spending consonant with a Green New Deal.
- Redirection of military spending into social programs such as housing and mental health services.
- Demilitarization of the nation’s police forces.
- Establishment of a cabinet level Secretariat of Peace.
And then there’s RFK Jr.’s foreign policy that is stronger than Williamson’s which I’ve criticized elsewhere. RFK’s approach calls for:
- Facing the fact that Ukraine is losing its war with Russia (suffering casualties seven or eight times as great as their opponent).
- Prioritizing diplomatic solutions to the war.
- Establishing strict controls over the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC).
- Defanging the CIA as responsible for most of the world’s international problems.
Keeping such differences in mind for purposes of comparison, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over the policies advocated by the Democratic neocons and the Republican fascists.
Today’s selections present the ideals that should move people of conscience regardless of their attitudes towards transcendent faith. Please note that the ideal is not the lesser of two evils.
ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41: Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this, they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.
PSALM 23: 1-6: His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction.
1 PETER 2: 20B-25: In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.
John 10: 1-10: An even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough.” We must open our eyes to the fact that Joe Biden is a mere out-of-touch figurehead. He’s a sheep rustler — not our friend.
Arguably, his foreign policy is worse than Trump’s. He’s surrounded by unimaginative warmongers whose only concern appears to be the welfare of Wall Street and its Military Industrial Complex (MIC).
Choosing to support the Democrats and its confused “leader” and his unimaginative, undemocratic agenda is suicidal.
It’s time to support genuine alternatives. Marianne Williamson and RFK Jr. provide them. At the very least, we’ve got to push to get the three candidates up on the stage for a series of real debates. That’s doable.
That in itself would represent a decisive step towards democratic process currently denied us by our system hijacked by the DNC.