The past weekend we celebrated Independence Day and were reminded of the great gift of freedom that we possess in our nation. However, because we live in a wonderful country where freedom is our charter, we oftentimes experience an understanding of freedom which is the farthest from that of our founding fathers. Many today hold that freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants and whenever one wants. Freedom is viewed outside the context of living in a community and seen as living from the perspective of only for oneself. We live in a society that views rights as personal and not from the vantage of the common good. Such an understanding borders more on license and can only lead to a destruction of ourselves and others. How often we experience this understanding of freedom in so many issues before us today.
Freedom is not the ability to do whatever one wants but the ability, as a responsible person created in the image and likeness of God, to choose the right thing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes freedom well when it states, “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.”
Christ became one of us so we might realize the truth of our existence as free men and women made in God’s image and likeness and made for nothing less than Him. Christ wanted to restore our freedom so we could choose Him on our own. “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are given by the Creator and this truth was recognized by our founding fathers. One can only wonder what the signers of the Declaration of Independence might think today to see a society where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been so separated from the One who grants them, God.
Our great nation is founded upon truth. Truth and freedom cannot be separated. As the Lord tells us “the truth will set you free,” so it is well to remind ourselves of these liberating words as we celebrate the freedom we possess in our country. We are a great nation because our roots are in a belief in God who is the Truth. The truth is that we are made by God and made in His image and likeness. The truth is that all women and men are equal and free before God. The truth is that our true happiness is found not in material possessions but in God for whom we were made. The truth is that all life, from the moment of conception until natural death, is sacred and only God can give and take it. The truth is that our society will find its way when it finds God and lose its way as it loses God.
Our founding fathers spoke of self-evident truths that make us free. Long before them, Jesus promised the truth will make us free. This republic was founded on a belief in God as a given and the freedom of all, not to do whatever we please, but the freedom to choose good as God intended. As we give thanks for our wonderful nation and the gift of freedom, may we never lose sight of the vision of our founding fathers. If we follow the path of the Lord, we truly live as the best and freest citizens of this great land.
May the truth set us free!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
July 10, 2020