The Fourth of July - United States' Independence Day
Sunday's (7/5) Word:
Ezekiel 2:2-5 (God appoints Ezekiel as the next prophet to the "rebellious" Israelites)
Psalm 123:1-4 (Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy)
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Lord to Paul of Tarsus: "My grace is sufficient for you")
Mark 6:1-6 ("A prophet is not without honor except in his native place, and among his kin, and in his own house")
Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose, and nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free...
--from Me And Bobby McGee (1969) written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster
Sign for Our Times:
(Hey, it looks patriotic.)
How can all this get tied together in a neat package? That's ultimately what I'm hoping for.
For openers, it is the second of the summer holidays here in the USA. On July 4, 1776, the representatives of the Second Continental Congress in essence told King George III of England and his Parliament: We're mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore! And while they were at it, Thomas Jefferson gathered enough inspiration to write perhaps the single most important document this nation will ever have: the Declaration of Independence. The gentlemen of the Congress were not declaring war, even though they were more or less already engaged in one. After all was said and done, they recognized that they had nothing to lose by making a public and formal declaration of their grievances with their colonial masters.
I will guess that most of us neither fully understand nor appreciate what work it takes to achieve the sense of freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States. There was certainly no vacation or picnic back in 1776. There were no scenic routes to travel; no "purple mountain majesty above the fruited plain." All that would come later as benefits, if you will.
Is it possible that we can become spoiled after 233 years of varying degrees of autonomy "from sea to shining sea?" Yes, definitely. One need look no further than a comparison of different periods of our nation's history. From the imperialistic nature of our Western conquest to the discrimination of people and cultures both within and outside our borders to the stranger stories of our present time; from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. It's all there.
But it's not unique.
Ezekiel was sent to the Israelites as God's prophetic messenger at the beginning of the Babylonian exile, some six centuries before Jesus. The nation had been taken captive; the temple in Jerusalem destroyed. The people and their leaders had come to take their freedom for granted. Their ancestors' deliverance from slavery in Egypt - the first Passover - and their subsequent exodus to the Promised Land was a distant memory. By the time of Jesus, some of that had changed - but some things had become worse in the fracturing and fissuring between Jewish sects. And for the ultimate freedom of all, Jesus gave himself. Humanity had lost just about everything, it had little else to lose.
While you are out and about this weekend along our highways and byways, visiting the sites and enjoying the sounds, whether it be in the open country or in one of the big cities that has added to this nation's fame and fortune, and everyplace in between, remember that the freedom we enjoy was not taken lightly by those who fought to gain it. More importantly, that we have freedom in the first place is a gift of God, and not limited to Western civilization. As many fight to gain freedom for others, it is not our way of life imposed upon another way; but rather, that all might recognize that they are truly blessed and that all may be truly free.
God, source of all freedom,
this day is bright with the memory
of those who declared that life and liberty
are your gift to every person.
Help all the people of this nation
- from our leaders to those known only to You -
to continue a good work begun long ago.
Make our vision clear and our will strong:
that only in solidarity will we find liberty,
and justice only in the honor and dignity
that belongs to every life on earth.
Turn our hearts toward the family of nations:
to understand the ways of others,
to offer friendship,
and to find safety only in the common good of all.
We pray this be granted in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. -Amen.
--taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers (1989)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops