Tomorrow is the birthday of our nation, and with the rest of you, I will be thanking God for the bountiful blessings He has lavished upon our wonderful country. Daily I find myself praying for citizens and inhabitants of other nations where, instead of peace, prosperity, and freedom, they experience war, violence, hunger, persecution, sickness, poverty, and oppression. May God continue to bless America! May the Lord keep calling us to the noble virtues that have made us stand tall: a respect for all life, the hunger for justice, the desire for peace and the fostering of family life and the common good.
The quality we Americans most cherish is liberty. It is here that we Christians, while patriots, often find ourselves restless. Not that we are not grateful for our freedom – you bet we are! But we admit that too often liberty has been misinterpreted to mean license. No one articulated this apprehension better than Pope John Paul II, who taught, “genuine freedom is not the right to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.” So, our American freedom is not a “cutting loose” from God, morality, virtue, or responsibility, but a bracing impetus to carry out the duties that are ingrained deep in our soul.
For us as Catholics, the teaching of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, the preaching of Jesus, the morality of the Church, all enhance and protect genuine freedom. God gives us freedom, and then implants in our hearts and reveals to us the sense of moral duty that allows us to live “in the freedom of the children of God.”
We believers, while so thankful for our political independence, are also concerned abut a moral autonomy, which makes us comfortable living without responsibility to God. This desire to be “free from God,” has cursed us since the Garden of Eden. Words such as subjection, lordship, kingdom, and servant are hardly popular in our American vocabulary. In our religious lexicon, though, they are at the core of our relationship with God. We know that America, like any other nation on earth, indeed, like the Israel of the Hebrew Scriptures, is at its best when it acknowledges its absolute reliance upon God and its trust in His sovereignty and providence.
It has been observed that perhaps the most revolutionary words an American can utter today are those which open the Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…” God, not I, is sovereign; the Lord, not the state, is almighty; God’s way, not mine, is normative; the Lord’s designs, not my puny plans, are definitive. To rebel against God, then, brings, not liberty, but slavery; to obey the Lord leads, hardly to shackles, but to genuine freedom.
So, maybe I should be wishing you all a “Happy Dependence Day.”