Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day. It is typically a day in which we celebrate freedom, and those who have over the years fought for us to have that very freedom in our country. When the founders of our nation came together to establish independence in the colonies from Britain’s control, they believed that the providence of God was fully at work. In the Declaration of Independence these same founders cite God as the source of the liberties we enjoy. It is said that the most famous sentence in the Declaration is the second one. It’s often thought of as the most well crafted sentence in American history.
“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.”
But is pursuing our own happiness at the expense of another really the message of that sentence? Is that the legacy our founding fathers left us? I think not. I don’t think it is necessarily having the freedom to do what we want, but perhaps it is the true freedom to be able to do what we ought. The freedom to love others and treat all people with dignity. The freedom to be people of charity, to follow Christ’s great commandment to love one another as He has loved us. The freedom to work for justice and make the world a better place, a place where people can have a home; a place where families can earn a decent livelihood; a place of acceptance of diversity; a place where human life is not a commodity but rather seen as something sacred.
There appears to be many elements in today’s America that seek to deal a fatal blow to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some say the American crisis is a moral crisis. We see this daily in our news, in our neighborhoods, in our streets. We are not a perfect nation by far. But I believe our founding fathers set the course for us, and they put their trust in Divine Providence. Their true understanding of independence gave us noble virtues by which to live and act not just for now, but for the future generations of our world. We are all one; connected to one another across this globe.
Yes, we are fortunate to live in this country which gives us the opportunity to heal the wounds of humanity all around us…to share hope, especially to those without hope. Our liberty is a gift, and gratitude is our response! But with freedom comes responsibility to strive for these very ideals upon which our country is founded, not only for ourselves, but for all. So we might look at our own lives and see how we are living these ideals today. Are we working for peace and justice, racial harmony, the dignity of all life from womb to tomb? How will we use our freedom for the common good?
I love the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence which says: “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance upon the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Happy Independence Day!
Barbara McMullen, CDP