DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE
What a way to begin Independence Day. “I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals. Eat what is placed before you.” What? So much for Good News!
And these words of Jesus are especially bothersome today for they come to us on Independence Day! Yet these words imply a radical dependence! A total reliance on God and one another, for he sends the disciples out two by two.
But I ask are we really independent or do we recognize our dependence upon God? Are we Americans first, then followers of the Gospel? Which messengers are we following? FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, the National Enquirer or Cosmopolitan – or Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?
The world says that the more we have, then the better off we are! The world says to consume and use whatever we can to make a name for ourselves. If I can just get that new car or a bigger house or whatever it is, then I’ll be somebody!
Advertisers spend billions of dollars every year telling us that we need their products to make us acceptable and help us achieve more! Right? Isn’t that right?
But Jesus tells us today to live simply and not be weighed down with all that extra stuff and not allow our possessions to possess us! So maybe that’s the whole point of the gospel message – that we have become so independent-minded, that we are actually too dependent upon the wrong things and not dependent enough on God.
Christ commands us to live radically simple lives, relying less on things, and relying more on Him and one another; not asserting so much our independence as our interdependence upon one another.
This means that we cannot live just as Americans or citizens of the U.S., though that we are, but our worldview must be focused on the Cross of Christ! Christ’s worldview turns the world’s view upside down.
So I ask are we Catholics first, then Americans, or have we allowed American values to dictate what parts of the gospel we like and discard what doesn’t seem to fit our political agenda?
Christ calls all people to himself. And so has the United States in her history.
Can we imagine what it would be to leave everything we know, leaving our native land and immigrating here with a different language? The people that made the journey to the United States often had little more than a dream in their heart and a hole in their pocket. Many were literally penniless, having sold all they had to simply purchase the ticket to sail on the boat, and with no real guarantee they would be granted entry or survive in the New World.
And these exiles, arriving here tattered and torn, with a few words of English, set out to begin a new life. Many of these exiles had nothing to speak of, no money bag, no extra pair of shoes, but only the clothes on their backs. And for many the first sight they beheld upon arriving here was the Statue of Liberty.
The image that comes to mind for many of us on this Independence Day weekend is the Statue of Liberty, a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
The bronze plaque on the Statue of Liberty’s giant pedestal calls her the Mother of Exiles, from the poem by Emma Lazarus.
How many souls long to belong, long for welcome in this world of ours, and imagine all those who journeyed here to the U.S., whose first sight was the Mother of Exiles, Lady Liberty.
The plaque reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free!
Interestingly, the name "Mother of Exiles" was never taken up as the Statue of Liberty’s name, even though it is engraved in bronze. Yet as Catholics our Blessed Mother and Mother Church herself have both been called “Mother of Exiles”. And isn’t this the hope of all exiles, that they will find welcome and rest and a home?
Yet in a way, as Catholics, we are exiles in this world. If we live by gospel values, we may well be exiled by our neighbors or even our friends. Some may say of us that we’ve gone too far with our faith in this Jesus business, that we are unpatriotic to the point where we place gospel values above American values.
It is certainly an interesting thought to imagine that the Statue of Liberty is calling us to be better Americans and in the process better Christian, better Catholics.
So if we are marked by the sign of the cross, then we can expect suffering, rejections, and crucifixion. Not everyone can or will accept the gospel cross. We will be judged as fools for Christ. We will be going against the popular opinion. Yet we recognize that Only in God is our soul at rest; our true fulfillment will not be in any party, except the party of Christ. Our independence day is celebrated on Good Friday. St. Paul encourages us to find our freedom in the cross of Christ.
Finding rest in Christ, recognizing His Mother as our Mother, and knowing that the Church herself is the Mother of Exiles, is truly liberating! The irony of today is that our true independence is found in our dependence upon God, Christ,
Mary, the Church, indeed our dependence upon one another.
There is no such thing as a lone Christian. We are in this together. And just as Jesus instructed his disciples, he continues to instruct us that we must trust in God for our defense and depend upon the hospitality of others for our well being. And this is what we celebrate today: our Dependence upon God and dependence upon one another. God alone is enough.
But if God alone is too much for our neighbors or family to handle, if believing in Christ and following the gospel somehow makes us less patriotic than other Americans, then let us repeat the words of Patrick Henry: “If this be treason, let us make the most of it!”