Some years ago, National Public Reading was airing essays entitled “This I believe” in which the authors share their foundational beliefs that have shaped their lives and give meaning and purpose to their existence. The journalist, Andrew Sullivan, gave a reflection on his belief in living in a blessed land whose foundational documents extol the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
My friends as we join with our sisters and brothers throughout our land to mark and celebrate this Independence Day in, it is good that we begin our great National Holiday in prayerful gratitude to the Lord – the giver of all good gifts. It is good that we remember and rejoice in the values that continue to shape our lives as citizens of this blessed land.
As the coin of our realm consistently reminds us, it is “In God we Trust” and it was the wisdom of that insight that influenced our founding ancestors to create something radically new that would reverence the gifts of individual freedom and responsibility in this land so blessed by the Lord.
The Apostle James presents us with practical wisdom as we live out that freedom and responsibility. Our greatness as a people will never be found in “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” but rather in the wisdom that comes “from above that is pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconsistency or insincerity” For the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
These words might appear paradoxical as we find ourselves as a nation engaged in painful conflicts that world terrorism have thrust upon us. Yet, experience has taught us that our work for peace has always been costly. The defense of liberty is not a cheap grace but rather one that inevitably is paid for by the valiant lives of those whose convictions have led them to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters. On this 241st anniversary of our Nation’s Independence, we cannot help but remember and give thanks for the Tradition of that selfless commitment that continues in our service men and women to this day.
St. Luke in setting before us the life giving words of the Master admonishes us to always set our sights on becoming “rich in what matters to God”. Our greatness as a people and a Nation will always be in proportion to our daily striving in growing “rich in what matters to God”. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can never be simply ends in themselves but rather gifts from the creator given to help fashion a community where the intrinsic dignity of all God’s children will be reverenced and celebrated. As we pray in the Preface of today’s mass “This message lives on in our midst as a task for us today and a promise for tomorrow.”
And so, my friends, as we enter into the wonderful rituals of today, as we gather with family and friends and enjoy our hot dogs and hamburgers and this evening see our skies brightened by the brilliance of fireworks exploding in mid-air, may our hearts be filled with gratitude for the author of liberty and for the God in whom we trust, now and always.