By JENNIFER BURGIN
“Ah, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that the LORD has blessed! May God give to you of the dew of the heavens And of the fertility of the earth abundance of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations pay you homage; Be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”
On this 4th of July holiday, Americans will fire up the grills and drink adult beverages while enjoying outdoor activities. Families will watch dazzling fireworks and sing-along to familiar patriotic tunes. Smiles and laughter will be exchanged between friends. Hopefully, Catholics will attend Daily Mass on this special day, thanking Our Lord for the birth of our nation and the beautiful gift of freedom.
I'm proud to be an American even if our nation is going through some unsettling changes. I'm sure our Founding Fathers never imagined the redefinition of marriage and abortion on demand. When I think of the history surrounding Independence Day, the Liberty Bell comes to mind. On the front of the bell is the famous crack along with the inscription: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof." Interestingly, these words are taken from the Book of Leviticus 25:10. The famous Liberty Bell has been a symbol for many groups seeking freedom and equality, including the Abolitionists, the Women's Suffrage Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement. Even those who advocate for Gay Rights have been inspired by the symbol of the Liberty Bell.
I think of that crack on the Liberty Bell as a reminder of the tremendous sacrifice and hardship Americans have gone through to obtain certain freedoms. Yet, I can't help but ask myself: We can symbolically ring the Liberty Bell in triumph for a new "right" given to a particular class of people. But, are we truly free?
In today's first reading from the Book of Genesis, Jacob with his mother's encouragement steals Esau's birthright in a game of identity theft. Jacob received his father's blessing instead of poor Esau, becoming the patriarch of the family. What if Esau was granted his birthright? How would it have changed the course of salvation history and the freedom given to us through Christ's death and resurrection?
I believe we are not truly free until we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not truly free until we recognize God's work in our daily lives. If it wasn't for a Higher Power, America would not be the incredible nation that it is today. We must keep in mind that our nation was founded on religious liberty. Such liberty should be cherished and not allowed to erode away as other "freedoms" become more popular and mainstream.
I've been studying the writings of the French Archbishop Francois Fenelon since the beginning of Lent. I love his thoughts regarding "Legalism and Freedom":
"It seems to me that real freedom consists in obeying God in all things. It consists in following the light that points out our duty, and in following the grace that guides us. We should take as our rule of life the intention to please God in all things. We should make it our rule not only always to do what is acceptable to him, but if possible do what is most acceptable to him."
Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P., an English Dominican priest, parallels Fenelon's words in his own definition of freedom in relation to law and liberty:
"Freedom means simply that I must be able to do my duty, and freedom is always outraged whenever I am prevented from doing whatever I ought to do. The purpose, then, of the law is to safeguard liberty, and liberty consists in fulfilling the law. Liberty has nothing at all to do with privilege; privilege indeed almost always means that other people's liberty is being interfered with. An exemption from a law at least tends to become ordinary a disregard for law."
As we enjoy Independence Day with friends and family, let us spend a few moments to say a prayer of thanksgiving for our beautiful country. Let freedom ring!
"To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to 'get along'; we must never just 'get along'."
- Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (Feast Day July 4th)
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality