July 4 invites us to reflect on freedom Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jun. 29, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Independence Day is an American federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Studying the Declaration of Independence can motivate us to reflect upon the meaning of freedom and independence.

Dependence on God

We Catholics believe that our independence and freedom are rooted in our dependence upon God. Our dependence upon God is clearly stated in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.

It begins, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." The preamble ends with these courageous words, "With a firm reliance on Divine Providence we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our honor!"

According to Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, for Christians, freedom is being free to choose Jesus Christ and follow his ways. It is also being free to choose the good for its own sake. When we fail to choose the good, we become slaves of evil or sin. Such slavery robs us of our freedom.

Freedom to practice religion

Venerable Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, who became an American citizen, believed that the Constitution guarantees citizens not freedom from religion, but freedom to choose and practice the religion they choose.

Those who push for freedom from religion today are often pushing their own religion of secular humanism. In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, it says, "In many ways attitudes and actions in the United States in recent years have fostered a 'culture of disbelief.'"

The first amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, has been interpreted so that it excessively marginalizes religion so that people of faith are pressured to act publicly as though religion doesn't matter. This has caused many believers to think that their faith is strictly a private matter and should have no influence on society and politics.

Serving the common good

On September 16, 2013, in a homily at Santa Marta, Pope Francis stated, "Sometimes we hear that good Catholics are not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern. According to the Church's social doctrine, politics is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. Catholics should offer their suggestions and prayers so their leaders can serve the common good in humility and love."

Public officials hold tremendous influence over public policies that affect us as citizens, Catholics, and people of faith. Issues of religious freedom, the right to life, protection of marriage and the family, the education of children, and how the poor, the vulnerable, and immigrants are served confront elected officials. These are the issues that we, too, as Catholics, must seriously evaluate when deciding for whom to vote.

Let's especially respect the rights of the unborn and others who literally cry for the right to live. Let's also pray for ourselves, our government, and other Americans during these challenging times. Let's thank God that we live in "the land of the free,'' where we can enjoy the freedom to follow our conscience to worship God as we choose and believe.

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