A Prayer for “Dependence Day”
(I thank those of you who asked me to publish my reflection from morning Mass on July 4. It has been updated since the holiday has passed.)
July 4 was a day of neighborhood parades, political speeches, fireworks, concerts, and backyard family barbecues. It was a day of celebrating our nation’s Independence; an independence won and maintained by the sacrifice of many lives, then and now…
I hope everyone paused to reflect Wednesday on the real meaning of Independence Day. It’s important also to remember that we give thanks for an Independence that is not Absolute. Only God has Absolute Independence.
We should have a national holiday called “Dependence” Day, as a reminder that our independence is rooted in our dependence on God. We are dependent beings. We are not independent in any way. This is why the First Commandment is also the greatest commandment. Only if we are completely dependent on God can we enjoy true freedom. Either we are dependent on God or we fall into the trap of being dependent on some other creature, or thing.
This dependence on God is clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence. It begins like this, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights…” And it ends “with a firm reliance on Divine Providence we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor…”
Our nation was founded on belief in God. The President takes his oath of office by placing his hand on the Bible, the Word of God, and ends with, “So help me God.” In our pledge of allegiance, we say, “One nation under God.” Engraved on our money is “In God we trust.” Our Congress has a chaplain, begins each session with a prayer, and the Catholic Church (and our Archdiocese) provides chaplains for the Military. They too serve our country as they serve God. Our Founding Fathers may have opted for a separation of Church and state but not for a separation of God and state. The division of life into the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy. There is not now, there never was and there never will be the purely secular, that is, anyone not dependent on God.
What the Constitution guarantees is not freedom FROM religion but freedom OF religion, freedom to practice religion. The irony, the contradiction, is that those who push for freedom FROM religion are actually pushing THEIR OWN RELIGION, which is secular humanism, where the Supreme Being is not God, but man. Each desiring power and independence from what is good and right. Secularism is inhuman. It creates greed, corruption, addiction, war, terrorism, moral decay, evil.
On that tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001, the illusion that we were absolutely independent went down in smoke and ashes with the Twin Towers. On that day we fell to our knees and asked God for help. Churches were filled. A nation prayed together. And in so doing millions realized how far we had wandered from God and from the convictions of our Founding Fathers.
Let us pray that our nation and our world can rediscover the way back, as we remember that every day is Dependence Day, on God, who is Love.