Independence Day reminds us we are a nation of immigrants Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes

Independence Day on July 4 is a federal holiday when we celebrate the anniversary of the day when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Four days after the signing, the Liberty Bell rang to summon the people to the first public reading of the document. As the words were read, there were great shouts of affirmation and celebration.

A nation of immigrants

On Independence Day, we can recall that before and after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, America — with the exception of American Indians — was a nation of immigrants. Often immigrants came in search of a better life.

As a boy, history was my favorite subject. I knew my paternal grandfather came from Germany, but America was my home. I was proud to be an American and was grateful to men and women who made sacrifices and took a leap of faith to emigrate to an unknown country. Many immigrants came to America to escape persecution and to have freedom to worship according to their conscience. Many recent immigrants to America from what is now commonly referred to as the “less developed” countries have no problem in recalling vividly the sting of overt and unrelenting persecution and the blessings of our country.

Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet entitled the “New Colossus” associated with the Statue of Liberty. Its most famous phrase was, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” She saw the Statue of Liberty as a light of welcome for immigrants.

On Independence Day, our nation proclaims its dedication to liberty, justice, and equal rights and opportunities. Since we are blessed, we cannot turn within ourselves and ignore the needs of others.

Dependence upon God

The signers of the declaration bravely pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Dependence upon God by the declaration’s signers is clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence, “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.”

And it ends, “With a firm reliance on Divine Providence we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our honor.”

Recommitting ourselves

We thank God for the abundant blessings given to our country. By the providence of natural resources coupled with contributions by many and diverse peoples who emigrated to these shores, we have become a great nation.

Recent popes reminded us that our greatness must be shown through our care for the most vulnerable. We must seek to include everyone in our blessings of prosperity.

On Independence Day, let us recommit ourselves to living the self-evident truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence. As Pope Francis urges, let us especially defend the rights of the unborn and others who are victims of injustice.

Let us pray for our government, the homeless, and the unemployed. May the Holy Spirit gift us with wisdom and courage to respect the dignity and rights of humans in all stages of life.

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