(optional readings for Independence Day):
Celebrating United States Independence Day
Today the liturgical guidelines encourage us to use the special prayers for Independence Day, and to chose from a variety of Scripture selections related to "public needs" and "social justice".
Interestingly, the "regular" readings encourage us to abandon our evil ways, to seek justice for all people - following Jesus' example of sacrificial, redemptive love. These Scriptures call out to us today to be Christ-centered messengers of justice and freedom...founded in true gratitude for our many blessings as 21st Century citizens of these United States.
The optional readings chosen for Independence Day highlight another dimension of our American heritage and our mission: peace. Isaiah calls out for peace, especially for those struggling or dejected in spirit; St. Paul writing to the Philippians reminds us to have no anxiety, but to daily turn to God in prayer for our personal and communal needs; Jesus at the Last Supper gifts his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you". True reason to rejoice and celebrate!
Jesus gives us his peace - not simply the experience of total tranquility or the absence of suffering or the absence of uncertainty. He offers His peace that comes from the experience that God is with us, here and now and in all things and with all peoples -- loving us unconditionally. As contemporary disciples, we look to the Cross of Jesus, seeking peace and freedom from our hectic pace of life, our uncertainties, our personal and communal suffering, and even the violence and death which is so much a part of our culture. And the unconditional love of Jesus showers each of us with his peace, with a sense of presence, freedom and redemption that transforms the challenges of each day into blessings for both today and tomorrow.
May today's celebration of our United States "independence" help us be grateful and share our God-given blessings with all people! In Jesus, may we live at peace with our sisters and brothers worldwide. May God bless America!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.