Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
Today is a day of national celebration, and a day of national thanksgiving to God for the gift of our sovereignty as a United States of America. Liberty, as it is so connected to today’s celebration is probably the pinnacle of American values. This can be seen clearly in some of our national expressions of patriotism.
In the Declaration of Independence, we read, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Etched into the side of the Liberty Bell is a passage from the Book of Leviticus that says, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land" (25 :10).
And at the end of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance we proclaim our loyalty to "One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"
As Christians, we are called to strengthen these human values so honored by our homeland. How do we do so? We strengthen them “by confronting them with the Gospel message” (St. John Paul II). Our shared human values as Americans, and especially our shared value for the greatness of human freedom, can only discover its deeper meaning when it is found in Christ—the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Liberty must be properly understood in the light of the Gospel, through the light of Christ, and He teaches us that only the truth will set us free (cf. Jn 8:32). In his first apostolic visit to the United States back in 1979, Pope St. John Paul II reminded us that “Liberty, in all its aspects, must be based on truth.”
We cannot proclaim liberty—we cannot let it ring throughout the land, unless it is firmly founded on the truth…and the truth is Christ.
For the reality of man…our human reality…and especially the reality of human freedom is redeemed only in Christ—true God and true man.
“Every human person, endowed with reason, is free when he is the master of his own actions, when he is capable of choosing that good which is in conformity with reason, and therefore with his own human dignity.”
Who is our model? Who makes it possible for man to master his own actions? To choose the good in conformity with reason? Christ—true God and true man. Christ has shown us the path to true human freedom. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Christ alone shows us the deepest and most satisfying reason behind our thirst for true liberty.
Let us take the opportunity today, as we celebrate the this Day of Independence, this day on which the freedom of our nation was announced, to reflect and deepen our understanding of liberty as it is reflected in the Person of Christ, the Incarnate Word. Let us discover again anew, the greatness of human dignity redeemed in Christ, so that tasting it once again ourselves, we may find the strength to proclaim it once more to the people of the United States of America, here where we have been called to preach the Gospel.
May the Holy Spirit guide us in this effort, and may Mary Immaculate guard us along the way.
Priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word