On July 4, 1776, the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation. Today, as we celebrate our freedom, we commemorate Independence Day in many ways – often with fireworks, barbecues and parades. On this important holiday, James Scullion, OFM, reminds readers of their responsibilities as citizens and as followers of Jesus. This reflection is reprinted from a parish bulletin.
As we know, with freedom comes responsibilities – responsibilities as citizens but, even more so, responsibilities as followers of Jesus. This weekend, we can celebrate the many good things happening in our country but we should also be aware of the polarization, which has even give way to violence in words and actions.
As we celebrate our freedom this weekend, what does Jesus call us to do as his followers in the face of hatred, polarization, and violence?
First of all, Jesus asks each of us to examine our own words and actions instead of judging and condemning others: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).
Religious and political zeal can be a good thing but can also lead to self-righteousness and hypocritical condemnation of others. Is this a “wooden beam” in my eye? Do I need to convert? Religious and political zeal can also lead to the demonization of our “opponent.”
Our rhetoric can become excessive and our words can become words of hatred and even violence. Again, I need to look at the “wooden beam” in my eye: how do my words, my zeal, my excessive rhetoric hurt and alienate others?
You and I, as Christians are called to be instruments of God’s peace and ministers of reconciliation. We are called through our baptism to be in the middle as mediators, helping different factions in the Church and in our nation listen to one another and respect one another even when – and especially when – we disagree with one another.
So this weekend as we celebrate our freedom, let us also pray for our world and our nation that we may work for healing, reconciliation, and peace: “For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation.
“Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect” (Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation II).
— Fr. Jim is pastor of St. Francis Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, holy day or other seasonal theme – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “July Fourth and Responsible Citizenship by Stephen Lynch” – June 16, 2014, HNP Today
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