July 5, 2020: The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
Thus says the LORD: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10)
Happy 4th of July weekend! In these pandemic times, the normal Independence Day picnics, fireworks and family gatherings are muted by the health practices of social distancing and virtual soirees. Though these traditional rituals find new expression, July 4th celebrations remind us of the value of freedom and honor those who have made it possible. Two hundred forty-four years ago, the dawning of a dream for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness broke free on the shores of these United States. We are grateful of such heritage even as we are humbled by the sacrifices made. The liberty we enjoy is not simply a freedom from oppression and tyranny, but a freedom for living a virtuous Christian way of life. And we should never take these freedoms for granted.
Our first reading gives us a glimpse of how Christ comes as a servant king who will establish a culture of freedom. In these times of political rancor and division, it is important to remember that the freedom which the humble Christ offers is not simply a political freedom, but a promise of spiritual liberation. The power of sin and death dissipate in the lives of those who follow his rule. And yet, precisely because of its spiritual roots, the freedom Christ brings has social and political consequences. The Church has long been an advocate for religious freedom in various areas of the public square, often as a champion for those whose voices are threatened to be muted. In fact, the origin of our nation connects with many core values of our faith. For example, the Preface for the Eucharist Prayer on Independence Day highlights the connection between Christ’s work and the formation of our country. It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord. He spoke to us a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers and sisters. His message took form in the vision of our founding fathers as they fashioned a nation where we might live as one. His message lives on in our midst as our task for today and a promise for tomorrow. We thank you Father, for your blessings in the past, and for all that, with your help we must achieve.” Though Christ did not come to establish a political kingdom, the freedom which flows from the Gospel calls us to work for a more just, merciful and compassionate culture. It is interesting to note that Zechariah’s prophecy “His Dominican shall be from sea to sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth” finds echoes in such lyrics of America the Beautiful “And crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea” and God Bless America “From the mountains, to the prairie, to the ocean white with foam.”
Though we need to be cautious in conflating them, Faith and Patriotism are not divorced from each other. Even the freedom to disagree without resorting to violence is part of the systemic fabric of our governance, and we pray that the recent violence that has plagued our streets will find peaceful resolution. St. Pope John Paul II said: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” We are Catholics who are proud to live in a country where human and religious freedoms can be advocated for and peacefully pursued. Violence does not have the power to transform the heart and we are grateful for the peaceable means we have to champion for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On this 4th of July weekend, may God bless you and God bless America.