Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Happy Independence month, regardless of whenever or however you celebrate your independence, it is important to recognize the freedoms we have and the responsibilities that come with them. Some people see it as a freedom to do whatever they want to do, but that would be anarchy. We live in a society, and with it come obligations toward each other and a respect of each other's person. Sometimes the freedom of the press means that I have the right to pry into your life and print whatever I want to print. Or, the Right to Bear Arms means I can own whatever weapons I want and shoot anyone I don't like. Of course, this only applies to white people. Apparently the courts have decided that if you are Black and have a permit to carry a gun..... well, you've seen the news.
My main concern, with all of the things we claim to have a "right" to, is how they connect to the values of Jesus Christ. It always troubles me when someone puts the word "right" in front of some argument, as a means of ending all debate. "I have a right to_______________" seems to be "flag waving". Or in other words, if you disagree with me or try to stop me, then you are unpatriotic and are interfering with my independence. Even when it seems so basic, like the "right" to defend ourselves or the "right" to protect "our" property or a "right" to defend our borders and our way of life. What does the Gospel have to say? "If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer the other." Or "If someone takes your shirt, offer your cloak as well." Or "Love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors." And let's not forget, "Thou shall not kill!"
The thing that truly disturbs me is what side of these arguments most Christians, and even parishes and churches, find themselves. I drove by a church this week whose lawn was covered with military flags. It strikes me how easy and ready Christians are to kill in the name of war. Forget loving one's enemies, and apparently "Thou shall not kill!" That doesn't apply to soldiers and civilians during a war. It's all too easy to wrap this in a flag and claim it is all done in self-defense, but let's be honest.
The Gospel requires sacrifice. Being a disciple is neither easy nor popular. When we look at the things we label as "freedoms" and "rights", do we do so with a Christian’s sight? Do we weigh these things against the values of The Gospel? Are we willing to be labeled as unpatriotic for the sake of Jesus Christ? Perhaps, amidst the parades and barbecues this week, we should pause and meditate on these questions. What are the responsibilities that we owe to our God and future generations? What freedoms do you hold most dear? And what is it that your God requires of you? And to whom do you choose to pledge allegiance?
In the Redeemer,
P.S. I will be going with a small group of Parishioners to the National Black Catholic Congress week. I am going to take a few days of R&R as well. So, I will be out of the office until late next week.