Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 6 July 2014 – Freedom and Equality Are Not the Same

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14 Ordinary A – July 6, 2014 – Freedom and Equality Are Not the Same

Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2,8-11, 13-14; Roman 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

The Chicago Sun Times recently quoted The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. as he reflected on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (1964). He said, “We’re free but not equal. There’s a gap in health care and education, jobs and income and housing.” [1] 

This weekend you and I celebrate our Declaration of Independence from a tyrannical King George III. The bold document asserts that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator, with unalienable rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights governments are instituted among us. They derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

Has Abraham Lincoln’s classic address about a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” [2] been modified? Do civic regimes today honor only those who can afford to be heard? Does not the freedom of expression belong to all classes? What are the responsibilities of those who are governed? By treating one another with generosity, trust and respect instead of cynicism, suspicion or hatred we promote unalienable rights for all. But there is more that is expected of us as citizens of this country and as Christians.

Today’s gospel calls for sharing one another’s burdens. The word “yoke” is used metaphorically by the author to describe those things that control the lives of people.”  Religious laws during the time of Jesus were most restrictive. The Pharisees led the peasants to believe that by strictly adhering to 613 commandments they would please God. Jesus spoke of a new law, a new spirit. He challenged religious and governmental leaders to treat all people with compassion and understanding. [3] In doing so, Jesus understands himself as a spokesperson of Wisdom.

The founders of this country broke away from the yoke of imperialism. However, there are new oppressions that must be shared to make the American burden light. Learning to be tolerant of one another’s values and aspirations in a pluralistic nation can be difficult. Divisions among people occur when the interests of powerful political, religious, corporate and even family entities suppress the rights of others. It is a complex situation that can be resolved only by breaking down the boundaries that divide us.

These divisions are deep according to Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics. Corporate welfare increases while we curtail public assistance for poor people. Rich farmers get subsidies while we cut back nutritional support for needy persons. Drug companies are given billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. Stiglitz continues, “Economic inequality yields political inequality and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality.” He concludes, “justice has become a commodity affordable to only a few.” [4] 

When George Washington met with some governors and states of our new nation in 1783 he shared a prayer for our country. That God would dispose us, he prayed, “to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with charity, humility, and a peaceful temper of mind.” He went on to say if we do not do so, “we can never hope to be a happy nation.” [5] 

Some say the American dream is to be happy. Not all people can achieve that dream. There are still too many yokes that burden us because, depending on your race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, education or class, not all people are treated with equity. On this Fourth of July weekend you and I give thanks for our freedoms. Let us continue to work and pray for equality.

__________

1 Sfondoles, Tina. “Marking 50 Years of Civil Rights Act” in Chicago Sun Times 06/28/14 p. 9

2 See Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address  (November 19, 1863)

3 John J. Pilch The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A. (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1995) pp. 106-108

4 Stiglitz, Joseph E. “Is Equality Inevitable?” The New York Times June 29, 2014, SR7

5 George Washington Circular Letter to the States, Newburgh, NY, 1783

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily – 6 July 2014 – Freedom and Equality Are Not the Same

  1. Wow! You and David together pretty much cover the domestic and international arenas this week! He is preaching on imprisonment of all kinds. I guess maybe the Spirit is blowing hard in Albany. Thanks for an absolutely wonderful “dream facilitation” Tuesday night; I think that really helped us all get onto a track for exciting, yet modest, realizable goals. Mel

      Carmel Ann Sperti, D. Min. Aredhel Arabians at Patrick Farm Morris, NY

    Find Aredhel Arabians on Facebook!

    “Be not lax in celebrating! Be not lazy in the festive service of God; be ablaze with enthusiasm. Let us be an active, burning offering before the altar of God.” -Hildegard of Bingen

    “Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by — and that has made all the difference.”~ Robert Frost

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  2. Another excellent homily, one that touches the heart and stimulates the mind. The conflation of freedom and equality is something to ponder. With the preponderance of so many seeing them through the same lens, there is much confusion – and a lack of both values. Lots to pray with, thank you.

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  3. Right on target, we need to hear about our obligation to fully support justice for all and bring equality and freedom to all people in our land and in the world. A very big order but we must do this, It is what Jesus taught us.

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  4. And the more we read through the lense of sexism, the more we will see just how unequal women have been and continue to be. Not even the Declaration of Independence spoke to women’s equality. Several decades later E. Cady Stanton drafted a new declaration that clearly articulated that all men and all women have certain inalienable rights. The recent Supreme Court Justices’ male controlled rendition on health care and birth control certainly showed that women are still second class citizens controlled by conservative males. Freedom is not the same as equality for sure, and women have neither in society and church,

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