Homilies

July 8, 2024

July 4th, 2024

Every country has celebrations which are not strictly tied to any
organized religion. The United States is no exception. We have
Memorial Day, for example, and Thanksgiving, and the day we
celebrate today, Independence Day. These days don’t depend on
the cycle of the church year, but rather form together a kind of
national religion.

Today we recall the freedoms and liberty that we have as
citizens of this country. But these freedoms do not give us the
license to do whatever we want. Rather, they make it easier for us
to live as God would have us live, without fear of reprisal or
repercussions. They give us the possibility of living in peace.
As the gospel this morning reminds us, peace is Christ’s gift to
us, but that gift goes hand in hand with justice; that is, with the
right ordering of relationships. Pope St. Paul VI reminded us of
this many years ago, when he told us that if we want peace, then
we must work for justice.

How do we do that? Today’s first
reading from the Prophet Isaiah gives us plenty of options: setting
free the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving
the homeless a place to live, to name only a few.

This year, July 4 falls in the week when the first reading at Mass
on ordinary week-days is taken from the Prophet Amos. One of the
main points of Amos’s prophecy is that a nation that ignores the
plight of its poor and marginalized people is a nation that has
forfeited its right to exist.

We might ask ourselves today how we as
a nation measure up against that yardstick.

But all is not lost. Amos, as well as Isaiah at the end of this morning’s reading, also
reminds us that God will not forsake a nation that repents of its
unjust treatment of the poor and powerless.

Today is a time to give thanks for the good things we
individually, and collectively as a nation, have accomplished. It is
also a day to repent for what we have failed to do, to resolve to
work for peace with justice, and to place our trust in a merciful
God who will never abandon us.

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