Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year,
part of my homily will be about the meaning of this holiday.
And since it seems like a lot of our fellow Americans
don’t know the story of our country –
in many cases they are being given a very distorted version of it –
I can’t take anything for granted.
So let’s start with the basics.
First: to be patriotic is a virtue.
It is right to love and honor the place of our birth,
recognizing how much we are given.
This is not a blind love.
Our country is not perfect, and so it is also right to help our country
become more godly, to become a “more perfect union.”
That said: it is wrong to treat good gifts with contempt.
Too many of our fellow Americans seem totally unaware
of what incredible gifts we have been given
in our birthright as Americans.
This is due in part to terrible distortions and misrepresentations.
I can only do so much in these few minutes. You can do a lot more.
One action item I strongly urge from this homily
is for everyone here to discover our history
and what we have to be grateful for. And to share it!
Parents and grandparents: do not take it for granted
that everyone knows!
When you see people tearing down statues
of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
and Theodore Roosevelt and others,
and you have so many people who want to silence and “cancel”
ideas they don’t like;
Or they try to burn down courthouses in many cities,
or they behave like fools in the U.S. Capitol,
and you have many saying they think socialism is the answer,
then it’s painfully clear that quite a lot of people
do not know what they should know about our country.
So: you want to do something positive and not just be unhappy?
Make sure your family knows what we all have in this country.
Today we celebrate the birth of the United States of America;
because this was the day in 1776 that elected leaders
from the first 13 states approved the Declaration of Independence.
When they declared our independence from Great Britain –
then the world’s superpower –
it was very uncertain whether they would succeed.
Our founding fathers pledged
their “lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.”
If you have never read the Declaration of Independence,
or it has been a while, then you should read it.
It is a statement of what our country is about;
why we exist as a separate nation and what defines us.
Let me quote words that every American
ought to have written in his or her heart:
“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.
“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
No one had ever really said it like this – all in one place.
No nation had ever dedicated itself to this vision;
and if we took these ideas for granted before, let us do so no longer,
because they are under assault everywhere, including here at home.
Part of the birthright of being American is that we are citizens:
“We the people” have a vote. We have a voice.
In Hong Kong, they used to be free,
but now they are being enslaved by communist China.
In Finland, a member of the Parliament
referred to what the Bible says about male and female
and she was charged with a crime.
A few days ago, an American athlete turned her back on the flag
and complained about how oppressed she is. I don’t know her story.
What I see is a terrible lack of gratitude, and ignorance.
If she did that in most places, she’d find out what oppression really is.
No matter who you are, if you live in the U.S., you won the lottery.
That is not to say you and I and others should not speak out.
There are problems. Is there racism? Yes.
Are their injustices? You bet.
There desperately need to be changes in our cities
and many of our public schools.
And I can mention the prolife issue,
the growing insanity about marriage and family:
yes, there are things that need to change!
Getting involved, speaking out, protesting – peacefully – and organizing:
these are the right things to do, the American things to do.
But there’s one more layer, the deepest one of all:
You and I are Christians.
God chose to put us here, in in this place and time.
We are here both to be citizens of this land,
while also being citizens of God’s Kingdom.
It is not always easy to do both, that this is our task.
The readings today are really fitting.
We hear about Ezekiel giving a message no one wanted to hear;
the exact same thing happened to our Lord Jesus in the Gospel.
St. Paul talks about the hardships and disrespect he experienced.
Many generations of Americans before us toiled and sacrificed,
often with their lives, to make this a better country,
truer to our founding ideas.
If you and I have to face opposition or criticism or mockery,
that puts us in a long line of Christian witnesses and, also, patriots.
It is right to love our country; the fullest expression of that love
is to want the best for America and all our fellow citizens.
So you and I celebrate so much that is good about our nation;
and we work and pray for the conversion of our country,
asking, as the song says, “God mend thine every flaw.”