14 Ordinary July 4, 2010 – Freedom isn’t Free
Isaiah 66:10-14c, Psalm 66:1-3, 4-7, 16, 20, Galatians 6:14-18, Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Compete biblical texts
On this Independence Day weekend can we ask: are there any similarities between Christianity and the United States of America? Today’s Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving for national deliverance from oppression. The psalm was about the Israelites. Today we celebrate national deliverance from the oppression from an unjust monarch. The psalm follows the Isaiah prophecy in the first reading about the restoration of the people of God after their long exile. It says the city of Jerusalem, like a mother comforting and nourishing her children, will welcome them with open arms. 1 What a wonderful image – motherhood as a minister of restoration.
One cannot help but recall the Emma Lazarus poem in the base of our Statue of Liberty. “A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world wide welcome ….” Such a similarity. Mother Jerusalem welcoming exiles. Mother Liberty welcoming tired and poor huddled masses to the land of freedom.
This weekend is a good time to reread the Declaration of Independence. While there is no specific mention of Christ or Christianity, there is a reference to nature’s God, that all people are created equal, endowed by the creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for the integrity of our intentions and a there’s a reliance on the protection of divine Providence. Who makes sure that these statements, these principles, are honored in this country?
The gospels of the past two weekends were concerned with our identity as Christians and our response to the call from God to be disciples, missionaries. Those texts set the stage for today’s passage where we read how Jesus commissions missionaries to go out to the world. He warns them that they will meet up with unnerving situations; that their message will be rejected; that they will endure humiliation, suffering and even death. The good news is that this gospel ends on a positive, hopeful note.
In today’s gospel Jesus sent out 72 missionaries. Some sources say seventy, a number based on the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis (10:1-32). In the world today there are 194 nations not counting Taiwan. There are 61 dependent areas (colonies) and 6 disputed territories (e.g., Gaza Strip and West Bank, Antarctica). 2 Peace and justice are illusive in all of these places.
As we give thanks to God for our deliverance from the tyranny of King George let us not forget the missionaries who brought the word of God to this land. Like the disciples of Jesus they too were met with suspicion, rejection, torture and death. Just think of those North American Martyrs who planted the seeds of faith nearby in the Mohawk Valley. One wonders would we be here today without their courage and missionary zeal. How did the disciples do in the time of Christ? How did the missionaries do who brought faith to this land? How are we doing?
With over 2 billion members Christianity today is the largest religious group on the planet. There are 1.1 billion Catholics. In the US 50% of the population say they are Christians. Catholics make up 25% of that number. 3 Thankfully the ecumenical movement and respect for other faiths brings us together to work for justice and peace. One would think that a united Christianity coupled with other faith traditions would make the world a peaceful place to live.
The history of Christianity is a bittersweet one. When one thinks of the crusades, the inquisitions and the colonization of indigenous peoples, the spread of Christianity is a mixture of good news and bad. Today, as clashes continue over human rights, power and governance, the graces and blessings of Christianity and, in our case, Catholicism, continue to fill us with gratitude and hope.
When one thinks of the history of the United States the same is true. The spread of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been mixed with acts of civil war, violations of human rights, and trespassing on the principles of subsidiarity around the world. Still the graces and blessings of life in this country fill us with pride, fortitude and hope for a better tomorrow.
Our freedoms — whether as citizens of this nation or as members of a Christian community — came about because of the vision, courage and sacrifice of pioneer missionaries, civic founders and those who continue to spend their lives fighting against evil at home and abroad. The quest for the new creation called for in today’s second reading is never ending. People around the world and in our country still suffer indignities at the hands of poverty and oppression. We cannot stand by quietly, enjoying whatever bounty we have while others have little or nothing at all.
Freedom is not free. There are responsibilities connected with working for liberty. As citizens in this country we have an obligation to be pro-active in issues that jeopardize human rights at home and abroad. As baptized members of this Church we have an obligation to question any injustices our religion is liable for whether against our own members or those of other religious beliefs. In these efforts we are mindful that our joy and satisfaction is measured less by our achievements and more by our loving relationship with God and one another. 4
As we celebrate our independence this weekend with fireworks, barbecues and visits with family and friends let us find a moment, just a moment, to think about new ways to become better people, to advance the gospel message in a country, in a religion, founded on faith and trust in the God of all nations.
1 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition) pp. 482-284.
2 The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010
4 Byrne, Brendan. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2000) 95-96