The first reading Is 66:10-14c with its praises of Jerusalem speaks loudly of the celebration of tomorrow, the fourth of July. It is an expression of love of nation , yet in that expression it talks about a nation constricted by borders. Its mention of Jerusalem speaks of a country, a landscape, a nation, and a piece of real estate. It speaks of patriotism much as Independence Day does. A country, from sea to shining sea. The gospel reading Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 today also speaks in sorts abstractly of country. In the sending out of the seventy two to preach the gospel, the country (the kingdom Christ preached) is not defined by real estate, but by faith and soul. Independence Day largely has that same theme, a declaration of independence and the defining of this countries ideals, and aspirations. That document captures the soul of a Nation.
Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!
That gives one reason to wonder, what emotion would there be in celebrating the nation minus the ideals of its founding document? What if one approached Independence Day without its inalienable rights? What if one acknowledge the land minus the ideals? The same can be asked about the Christian landscape, what if that were preached minus the teaching of Jesus Christ. What if Christianity was in name only? A title minus its principles.
I can bring this up because the role of much of government is precisely defending the soul of a nation. Its legislatures, and representatives, and courts constantly argue a nations constitution. Some argue for it, and some against it. The fight is for the soul of a Nation, its national identity. That fight is prominent in the lives of many citizens, it is expressed in the news on the airwaves and in print. In fact freedom of the press is a major part of the American identity. The arguments, on both sides, belong to our political process. Take this same argument and apply it to Jesu Christ’s Church, but with one difference.
A difference, what is the difference? Certainly the Churches Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops, and Priests argue for the Churches identity. They argue for a Church that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. Their arguments, and decisions, and proclamations, good and bad, are but one part of the body of Christ.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
That Body includes the voices and actions of all its members, and not simply the ordained . The difference that I had mentioned is that the ordained are familiar with the theatre in which they speak, the laity can often be conflicted. The laity, in their struggle,are often bombarded by an opinionated secular media that wishes to alter their religious foundation. Church and State do not always agree, and the laity struggle between the two. That media often wishes to change the course of Christianity, they wish to replace its heart and soul with something of the politicians choosing. That agenda is for a Christianity, minus the Sacred Heart of Christ. It is an argument of a national agenda that often severely conflicts with a Church identity. They are the hot news issues of the day. There is nothing revolutionary stated here, it is a fact of modern life.
Turn back again to an original question, what would it be like to celebrate a nation minus its ideals. Then turn that question towards Church. What would it be like to celebrate the Mass of Jesus Christ in a Church that no longer honored and protected the teachings of Jesus Christ? Church and State, even when declared separate, are never truly independent of each other.
While celebrating the independence of a nation, Catholics should never take for granted the independent character of their Church. It must not become salt that lost its taste. One of the primary reasons for the establishment of the Catholic school system, was to keep American Catholics, Catholic. Freedom of religion is part of the nations makeup, and there is nothing unpatriotic stated here. This freedom is a treasured right to be preserved.
The questions comes from listening to the news and issues and struggles of a nation, and searching within them for the truth of the Church. A Catholic should never take for granted the Heart of their Church, or let it be diluted by a political agenda. That Church’s gospel, differs from the one the media proclaims, and that is something I think about on this independence day.