The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

"Being human is wicked cool!"

This memorable phrase was uttered nearly 20 years ago by a young man in a confirmation class I was leading at a parish in Massachusetts. (For those of you from outside New England, for some unknown reason "wicked," when used to modify a word like "cool," acts as a superlative; that is, "real cool.") We had been discussing the ramifications of being created in God's image and likeness when its true meaning suddenly dawned on this ninth grader. He went on to wax eloquently about how neat it was that God had made us to be like Him. This, in turn, led to a class-wide discussion of what it meant to be a created being among other created beings. Eventually, another budding young philosopher said, "We really are special, aren't we? I mean, it's like this super gift." From that remarkably astute observation, we progressed to a discussion on the sacredness of life and our responsibility to respect our own lives and the lives of others. Shortly before the end of that class I polled this group of teenagers on a number of life issues, including abortion. They were unanimously pro-life.
These young people had begun to think about the gift of life, human life, and what our shared humanity means in our relationships with each other and with God -- fitting thoughts for Independence Day. I suppose it's really all about dependence and independence. The independence we celebrate today is an independence from external worldly institutions, the result of a decision made by a people with common values to come together and govern themselves. And although we celebrate our independence from other human institutions, we also celebrate our limited dependence on each other, and our complete dependence on God.

But when those foundational values cease being common values, when too many Americans reject or ignore those values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," that earthy independence can quickly evaporate. Once we find it more convenient to abdicate than to exercise our sovereignty as a people we run the risk of losing the independence bequeathed to us by the many who sacrificed so much. Let's hope and pray that their sacrifices were not in vain.

Enjoy today. Eat a hot dog. Drink a beer. Watch a parade. Salute the flag. Light a sparkler. Shoot down a North Korean missile. Celebrate our independence and pray for our nation.

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