My dear friends,
Happy Independence Day! It’s rare that we get to gather as a community to worship on the 4th of July, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, we get to offer each of our Masses for this great nation of ours. What a blessing!
We are indeed blessed to live in the United States. My parents and grandparents who sought refuge on these shores some 53 years ago, always taught me to love this country because it opened its arms to our family and allowed us to work hard to achieve success under the freedom and liberty that America provides. Having just recently celebrated Memorial Day, we know that these freedoms come with the great price of those who gave their lives defending our homeland. Today we once again remember the men and women who laid down their lives for our country.
We also contemplate the freedoms that we now enjoy and pray that we never take them for granted. This past Tuesday we finished celebrating Religious Freedom Week as we prayed that our freedoms always be safe guarded especially the first freedom which is precisely the freedom to worship. Our bishops reminded us that “religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.”
We are blessed to live in a nation where we can go to church and worship without fear. Today we celebrate all that makes it great, but we also pray for the things that we as a nation have yet to perfect: justice for the unborn, for the immigrant, for the poor, etc. We are reminded that America is still a great, unfinished experiment. We are called to participate in the shaping of that experiment inspired by our Catholic faith.
Today at the end of Mass, we will sing “America the Beautiful.” Back in 1987, when St. John the Paul II concluded his trip around the United States which began in Miami, he said these words in Detroit during his farewell:
Yes, America, you are beautiful indeed… But your greatest beauty and your richest blessing is found in the human person: in each man, woman and child, in every immigrant, in every native-born son and daughter. For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life!
…This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival-yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.
With these sentiments of love and hope for America, I now say goodbye in words that I spoke once before: “Today, therefore, my final prayer is this: that God will bless America, so that she may increasingly become – and truly be – and long remain one Nation, under God, indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. (St. John Paul II, Farewell Speech in Detroit, 9/19/87)
On this her 245th birthday, may God continue to bless the United States of America.