Today as a nation we celebrate our freedom. The day is filled with backyard parties, good food, good friends and family, and of course fireworks. Yet, I feel that many of us celebrate this holiday with a view towards triumphalism, and I believe that is dangerous. We have seen from history that freedom can be easily lost.
It is a day to remember that freedom comes with a price, and many in our land have lost their lives to attain our freedom. But it is important to remember that there are people in places around the world that do not have freedom. We need to realize that peace is the only way to achieve true freedom in this world. When we look down on other countries, other cultures, other peoples, we work against peace. Our country was founded upon a belief in God. Yet so often, it seems, we as a people and as a nation, even as Christians, easily forget that. We talk about peace, yet we don't often act peaceful. True peace comes in following the will of God and in being the Body of Christ in this world.
I once read a bumper sticker that said "if you want peace work for justice." Peace, freedom and justice go hand in hand. You have to have all three. Only when those three act together can we speak of true freedom. Thomas Merton wrote, "Peace is not something you must hope for in the future. It is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present, you will never find it." Jesus came to announce the Kingdom of God to ALL the world, a Kingdom of peace, of freedom, and of true justice.
Several summers ago when I was at Notre Dame working on my MA, the following hymn was sung at Mass on July 4th. I was never one for patriotic songs at Mass for our focus should be on the praise of God, not on our country. When I heard this song and read the lyrics, I finally found a song that I believe deserves to be sung on Independence Day. I brought it back to our parish and we have been singing it ever since. It is a song for our nation, and for nations around the world, for we truly are one. As we celebrate July 4th, join me in a prayer for peace and freedom, for all the world.