This Independence Day marks a milestone in my summer vacation. Four weeks remain for me to organize, pack and return to the seminary. Although there will be fun, I look toward the next stage of my religious formation. I prefer quiet this holiday after many years of working in the newsroom on that day. In this reflective time, I think of America.
How deeply I do love this country. Born here as the son of an immigrant family, I have appreciated the freedoms and the opportunities. I soaked up American history, especially Revolutionary War and Civil War periods. When I lived by myself, I made sure to put out my tiny flags on my windows. Even fictional destruction of national symbols and landmarks pains me so much that I wouldn’t watch movies that portrayed them (i.e. “Independence Day” or any 9/11-related films).
But this deep love is matched equally by the dismay over the shortcomings of this country. The news over the past several years highlights them: mass shootings, family breakdowns, discrimination, racism, social and economic inequality, infrastructure breakdown, erosion of religious liberty, decline of political civility and governmental deadlock.
Oh, when will this country live up to those words in the Declaration of Indepdence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”?
I would have found myself in a funk if it wasn’t for the psalm response two Sundays ago: “You are my heritance, O Lord.” Jesus IS my inheritance, full of grace, strength and life. He sustains us during tough times and points out the things to celebrate. Despite disappointments and setbacks, Jesus was, is and will be victorious because of his Resurrection. Reliance on anything else (ideologies, power, cunning, etc.) wafts away as smoke from a barbecue on a lazy summer afternoon.
“For what has been achieved we give you thanks, for the work that still remains we ask your help,” says an opening prayer for the Mass on Independence Day. Revel in the company of friends and family at the barbecue, at the beach or in the outdoors. Frolic in the sun. Watch the fireworks. But let’s renew ourselves to live as American citizens growing in wisdom and virtue and striving toward those ideals “endowed by their Creator.”
Check out these related video reflections of Father Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron: