From the Pastor – July 5, 2009

This week we celebrate “Independence Day,” the “birthday” of the United States of America.It’s a day when we celebrate our “Freedom.” The Declaration of Independence was the document by which the people of the New World cast off the “yoke of slavery” of their former ruler – the King – and formed a government based on very important truths: “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.”

I’m sure we all have fond memories of celebrating this day with fireworks, hot dogs, picnics and family.But it’s always good to remember the spirit behind the Declaration. Freedom is ultimately rooted in God-given truths, and apart from them there can be no authentic freedom. As Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32).

Neither an individual nor a country that does not remain rooted in objective truth can live in true freedom. If we are serious about our faith and our citizenship as Americans, we should understand the Christian concept of freedom: “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude [true happiness]”¦ Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”(Catholic Catechism, 1731-1733)

One of the most common errors of our time is to confuse true freedom with “license.” L icense means doing whatever one wants, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.But we are not morally free to do whatever we want. Only when rooted in truth and acting in truth can we hope to be free. I remember the famous “Russian” comic from the 1980’s, Yakov Smirnoff.He used to say (in broken English): “What a county, America! We have choice!” And he was right.But our choice must always be directed to what is good and just. Choosing to do evil is not freedom. Some choices are wrong. On this Independence Day weekend, let’s thank God for our freedom, but let’s not sit idly by while the forces of darkness divorce freedom from truth. Let us live as Christian people with true freedom by doing good and avoiding evil. By doing so, we are being the most authentic Americans possible – those committed to those inalienable rights from God: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.May God bless America!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty