My Dear Friends,
To say that we are living in historic times would be a severe understatement. This week our nation turns 246 years old amid an environment that seems to be moving as quickly as ever. Independence Day celebrates our common American values. Again this year, we are struggling to grasp how to live those values when current events appear to undermine their very foundation. We have weathered much over the years, yet the key to our survival boils down to the simple truth we recognize as our national motto: “In God We Trust.” That is where any celebration of Independence Day must begin. It’s also how we as Catholics must confront the challenges of our times.
In the Book of Esther, the Persian king conspired to wipe out the Jewish people living in his kingdom. Esther, a Jewish woman in the Persian royal court, trusted in God and used her position of influence to save her people. Her stepfather Mordecai prayed this prayer as he awaited his fate, (Esther 4: 19-21) “O Lord God, almighty King, all things are in your power, and there is no one to oppose you in your will to save Israel. You made heaven and earth and every wonderful thing under the heavens. You are Lord of all, and there is no one who can resist you, Lord.” That must be our prayer too!
The Lord is in charge of our country. He gave her to us 246 years ago and has been by our side through the ups and downs of those years. On the whole, we Americans, have been inspirational and aspirational, a beacon of freedom in a world of turmoil. The achievements are too numerous to count. But at times we have also been misguided and cruel. That is our human story. We remain grounded because we trust in God. When we lose sight of that as a society, we become rudderless. We become like a directionless ship and the consequences are severe.
I imagine, if you’re like me, you sit there and say, of course I trust in God, but what is going on? The divisions between us are only widening, there is worry about turmoil in the streets, and now there’s another election? St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4: 6-9) speaks directly to us this Independence Day. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Our God is a God of Peace. He is a God of Justice. Our trust is in Him. Our part in all of this is to give thanks, to pray, and to petition God for His peace and justice in our country. And then, turn it into some definitive action, as described by Paul, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious… Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.”
Our nation needs our prayers, she needs our Catholic witness. She needs us to cling to God and to help be that rudder which guides the ship through stormy seas. Our society is far from perfect. It needs God’s healing touch now and always. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will always point us away from injustice, violence, and division. Cherish what makes America beautiful, put aside what divides us, and now, more than ever, In God We Trust.
God bless you all,