Every July 4th we pause to give thanks for our freedom, a freedom that was given to us through sacrifices of others who loved liberty more than life. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They gave you and me a free and independent America, at a great cost to themselves! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, and we shouldn’t.
And as we celebrate our freedom and independence on July 4th as Americans, as Catholics we also have reason to celebrate and reflect on the freedom that we share as children of God. We celebrate the freedom given to us by God and restored to us by Christ.
For all that afflicts our culture today – ceaseless demands, unreal expectations, rare appreciation, you and I are uncommonly blessed. Not only have we been freed from sin, we have been freed for a role in the divine dream for the freedom of God’s people. Day after day we are privileged to proclaim boldly and to shape slowly God’s vision of justice; a community where everyone sees Christ in one another.
Senator Lieberman was once quoted while commenting on Independence Day, “…there is no better way to celebrate the anniversary of America’s Independence than to remember what moved a determined band of patriots to lay down all for liberty, and then promise never to forget.
And we must promise never to forget what moved Jesus to lay down his life so that we could be free: Free from the power of evil, free to worship without fear, free to love as Jesus loves. As Christians, we must teach the next generation about our faith so that they are not in danger of losing theirs. One generation is all it takes to either lose or pass on the faith. Think about that? One generation! We must pass on to our children and our grandchildren the power of the living Gospel, what Paul called, “…the power of God for salvation.”
That power comes to us through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as we remember the past – his passion, his death and his resurrection – that is operative in the present, in the Eucharist, and gives us hope for the future where we will sit at the banquet feast in the New Kingdom of God.
It is through the imitation of the Eucharist, Christ’s love for us, that we will make this world a better place for all to live, to experience our dream as a Country and as a people, “…that all are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” understood as: The integrity of all life, from the womb to the tomb, with an understanding that Liberty is not just freedom from oppression, but also freedom to make this a better world for all, especially for our children and grandchildren. That is our pursuit of happiness and “true happiness” can be found only in the pursuit of God. May God bless us! May God bless America!
Fr Al Backman