Making America truly beautiful Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, by Fr. Don Lange

One of America’s greatest blessings is the Declaration of Independence. Its preamble reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”

For years, America failed to live up to some of the noble principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. One of these failures was tolerating legalized slavery. In 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery as a legal institution. But after slavery was abolished, many former slaves were denied some of their God-given rights in other ways.

For years women were also denied the right to vote. In August of 1920, 144 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

In his struggle for civil rights, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged America to live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

By the grace of God

The words “One nation under God” in the “Pledge of Allegiance” reinforce the Declaration’s statement that God is the source of our nation’s independence and freedom. From a Catholic perspective, freedom does not mean that we are free to do as we please. Rather, freedom means we are free to do as we ought.

True freedom comes from our dependence upon God, who graces us to recognize and respect the inherent dignity and rights of human persons stated in the Declaration of Independence.

Secular humanism and original sin influence some Americans to deny or to become indifferent to God’s ways. In Brothers Karamazov, Ivan says, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.”

When Jesus is alive in us and we follow his teachings, he gives us the grace to promote peace and respect life across the board.

Good civil laws help us to do what we ought, but inner personal conversion is also needed. In paragraph 1896 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is stated, “Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel.”

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1903, it is stated, “authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it.” Freedom and liberty must be combined with responsibility to the natural law, the rights of others, and God’s will.

Promoting the common good

In the Fortnight for Freedom Novena we prayed, “We praise and bless you (God) for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties.”

We Catholics have the right and obligation to use our freedom to urge elected representatives to enact just laws that support the exercise of virtue. These include efforts to protect life, promote peace, and work for the equal rights of all.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1913, it says, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person.”

America must be careful not to impose its will and the American way on others by military might. This can send the message that justice comes about by force. Rather America should seek to respond to problems in peaceful ways at home and abroad.

In Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, the American bishops stated, “We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship, not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. We urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation.”

Living the self-evident truths

On Independence Day, we can recommit ourselves to living the self-evident truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence, especially the rights of the unborn and others who cry for the right to live.

We can also pray for ourselves, our government, and other Americans during these difficult financial times. The Spirit will show us other ways to live the ideals of the Declaration of Independence if we ask.

May the Holy Spirit gift us with wisdom and courage so we can help make America more beautiful in the eyes of God and the world.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.