Saturday, July 3, 2010

America's National Holiday

It is striking how today's readings easily relate to the national celebration of our independence and the birth of a nation.  In the first reading, if you recall how the prophet Isaiah related Yahewh's words to him about the beloved Jerusalem.  "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her."  As I read those words, I felt that this is the spirit that fills the hearts of some 300 million people over the days of this holiday weekend.  Furthermore, Yahweh says "Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a rive, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent."

Well, of course, at the present time many Americans are suffering financially and may wonder if God would say these words to us today.  Yet, most Americans today, we have to be honest, may be finding life someone more difficult but that our life, compared to many other nations, is so much better.  Hopefully, our current discomforts will bring us to a deeper understanding of who we truly are and what God has given us.  And this leads to the second reading of the day, taken from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians.  The great teacher of the Church writes "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.... Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule."

Surely our God would not reject our celebration of the birth of our nation.  What St. Paul writes, however, is a reminder, I submit, that all of us are called upon the examine the priorities that we have in our lives.  A celebration such as Independence Day affords us with the opportunity to consider where we place priorities in our personal lives and in our national life.  A question that should make us consider Paul's words seriously is this: "Despite the contests between lawyers, politicians and religious leaders, has our nation built a separating wall so high that religious practices and beliefs are lost from the sight of many?"  Relatively speaking, our nation is still young.  What are some two centuries compared to the many centuries of other parts of the populated world?  Few who want the separating wall to be raised beyond reach, recall or even speak about the several times during the historic days of preparing the Declaration of Independence that those gathered in Philadelphia took time off, on three occasions, for a day of prayer to help them resolve their differences.  Imagine the fireworks that would be experienced if our politicians did the same during days of heavy debate on critical issues!  What Paul reminds us is that God must continue to have a place in our personal lives as well as in our national experience.

The third reading, the gospel of Luke where he records Jesus' missioning 72 disciples to go forth to preach the lessons he had been teaching them.  Isn't this what the founders of this nation were charging "We the People" to do?  Ours is to carry forth the message of human dignity that was proclaimed so loudly and clearly in the Declaration of Independence.  How many years has it been since you last read that document?  We, proud though we are of our nation, might even ask "Have I EVER read the document?"  Do I know where it is?  So often we encounter people who will wear their patriotism on their sleeves and that really is the extent of it.  Is not that a religious experience as well?  I proclaim loudly my Catholicity or my Christianity.  But have a read the most important document handed on to us?  The Bible?

So, as many leaders say, "My fellow Americans ..."  This is a great day for worthy celebration for all of us regardless of our religious practices.  And this liturgy's readings today help us consider how strong we, as a nation, need to remember there is a God above all of us ... no matter how high some may wish to build that separating wall!!!