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Life, Liberty, Religious Freedom, and the Pursuit of Happiness


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The hazy, lazy days of summer will be at the midpoint as we celebrate the Fourth of July this week. With parades, picnics, and fireworks we will proudly celebrate those self-evident truths that all are created equal and are endowed by God with certain unalienable Rights -- Life, Liberty, Religious Freedom, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We will also recall all those who have and are defending our way of life across the world.

In his book, Memory and Identity, St. John Paul II, warned about confusing Nationalism with Patriotism.

“Whereas nationalism involves recognizing and pursuing the good of one’s own nation alone, without regard for the rights of others, patriotism, on the other hand, is a love for one’s native land that accords rights to all other nations equal to those claimed for one’s own. (p. 67)” Pope Francis reminds us what our Eucharistic gathering is to be about. “Here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth. Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others?” (Fratelli Tutti, no. 70.)

I share with you part of a reflection written by Pat Marrin, for your rumination. “Should there be a healthy tension and a holy dissonance when Jesus is invoked and the Mass is celebrated on the Fourth of July? The answer is yes. How this is articulated will range from respectful silence to strong rejection of all jingoistic self-aggrandizement. But the underlying truth of every Eucharistic celebration is that God, by becoming the victim of human violence in Christ, rejects the use of killing to save or alter history. We are called to change history, but the only path the followers of Jesus may take is nonviolent resistance to evil and the achievement of justice through selfless love.

If this seems too idealistic or even mystical for the real world, then it is fair to ask the “real” world what war has ever won that diplomacy and determined appeals to justice and morality could not have gained as well.

Let history judge that a different America would have emerged without bloody revolution, the forced removal of native peoples, the practice of slavery and expansionist wars against Mexico and Spain. Isn’t this the key historical question: What might we have become as a nation had nonviolence been honored as the central tenet of democracy — social change through debate and the ballot box, not by force of arms?

This bold experiment is in fact already woven into the U.S. Constitution — rights and freedoms based on the essential dignity and equality of every person. God was recognized by the framers of the Constitution as the source and measure of human dignity. Therefore, a nonviolent social order that respects all life is the true land of the free and the home of the brave.

This powerful dream of human dignity is celebrated at every Mass; it is the essence of the law and the prophets and the message of Jesus, whose image on the cross is the real sign and source of all our freedom.”

Have a faith filled week and a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

Fr. Ron

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