Barbecues, family, friends, and fireworks…these are just a few of the things that Americans gear up for each July 4th . We dig out our red, white, and blue clothes and wave the flag with pride. We’re ready to celebrate – there’s such good reason after all! On July 4th, the Founding Fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence because they were set free from injustice in order to choose what was best for their own country. They used their freedom to give us ours. Now what do we do with that freedom? Let’s take a look at what the Church says.
Last Sunday we heard a reading from Galatians. St. Paul tells us “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He was bound in order to release us from the chains of sin. But with that freedom… we’re still supposed to follow the Ten Commandments? I know you might be thinking, “That doesn’t exactly sound freeing.” It sounds like we’re being bound and restrained, doesn’t it?
Not quite. If God created us, He knows everything about us and gets to write the “rule book” for our lives. The commandments aren’t meant to confine us, but instead outline for us a way of life that will make us happiest. If we had freedom without truth to live by, there would be chaos and confusion in our lives.
The rest of the reading from Galatians says, “For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” God made each of us with the natural law in our hearts to know what’s right and wrong. Because of the fall though, we have desires that are against His law. We can become slaves to our desires if we don’t exercise our free will for self-control. When we love God and do good through the strength of the sacraments, we become stronger in resisting sin and have less desire for its occasions.
You know, to top it all off, living in a free country means that we are able to say and do whatever we want. This makes us personally responsible for every single action. JPII said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Jesus gave our souls that right, and our Founding Fathers gave us the right as citizens, because that’s what our dignity demanded.
Now that’s something to have a barbecue over.