Today is the 4th of July, the day we Americans celebrate Independence Day. We remember that 246 years ago we gained our independence from Great Britain. Today I hope that many Americans will take the opportunity to thank God for the abundant and providential blessings we have received in our country. When we look around the world, unfortunately, we see countries experiencing war, oppression, hunger, sickness, homelessness, all kinds of human suffering. We see this in our own country too. It begs the question, “what are we doing about all of it?”
Are we Americans working for the common good? This question reminded me of Pope Francis and his encyclical Fratelli tutti. In some challenging words he called attention to how self-sufficiency, individualism and independence can lead us astray. He said:
Individualism does not make us more free, more equal, more fraternal. The mere sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for the whole human family. Nor can it save us from the many ills that are now increasingly globalized. Radical individualism is a virus that is extremely difficult to eliminate, for it is clever. It makes us believe that everything consists in giving free rein to our own ambitions, as if by pursuing ever greater ambitions and creating safety nets we would somehow be serving the common good. (#105)
He goes on to say, giving us a vision of solidarity and fraternity built upon respect for the absolute dignity of each and every human person:
It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women … Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all. (#8)
These are challenging words and I believe they call us to look at our own lives and see how dependent we are on God, how true freedom gives us the ability not so much to do what we want, but what we ought. True freedom, shown us by Jesus, is the freedom to love others without reservation or judgments.
Maybe on this Fourth of July we should heed the words of Fratelli tutti, make it our prayer for the future of not only our country, but of the global world. Let us celebrate independence as we also strive for the interdependence our world so desperately needs. Let us pray that governments across the globe will make decisions that are prudent, wise, that foster peace, and work for the common good. Let us seek ever news ways of expressing and cherishing our interdependence one with another.
Happy July Fourth!
Barbara McMullen, CDP