> Genesis 22:1b-19
> Psalm 115:1-2,3-4,5-6,8-9
The first 121 words of the Declaration of Independence read:
"In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
It has been debated, mostly in biased camps, whether or not the founding fathers were Christian. Some say "yes", others say "no" ... and both do so with passion, conviction, and a mountain of quotes which prove their point. Sadly, history is much more written by the authors of history books than it is by those whom they write about. What can't be argued is the text of the very document we celebrate today: The Declaration of Independence. There, in black in white, are clear words that speak to us even today: "We are endowed by our Creator".
237 years after the Declaration was signed we find ourselves as confused about the true nature of freedom as those we rebelled against.
What is freedom?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Freedom comes from our "Creator". He "endows" us with it. It comes from Him, not us. It is a gift ... a gift from our Creator ... a gift for our Creator.
Pope Benedict XVI states: "[Freedom] is never to be identified with libertinism or with the freedom to do as one pleases; it is enacted in conformity with Christ and, hence, in true service to our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need." Freedom is given to us not so that we may do whatever we want but so that we might do what we should want. Let me explain.
There is a difference between "freedom from" and "freedom to". I can be free from oppression. I can be free from sin. I can be free from selfishness. Only when I am truly free from can I be free to. Once I am free from the above I can be free to love ... free to give myself to God ... free to receive from God ... free to love others. Freedom from that which holds me back always precedes my being able to be free to do.
The Founding Fathers knew this. That's why they declared freedom from the tyranny of the regime ... so that they could be free to live as "endowed by their Creator".
Here's the thing about freedom. If we don't understand the need to be free from in order to be free to then we will focus only on what "I have the right" to do with my "freedom." This disordered "freedom" becomes libertinism: a new form of tyranny that actually enslaves man to the very unhappiness he runs from. Thus, in a country that champions freedom ― the freedom to do whatever you want ― we see our nation growing less and less free to live as "endowed by the Creator". Self-centered "freedom" focuses on me and actually denies the very Creator mentioned in our Declaration. Self-centered "freedom" focused on me forces me to fill the void in my soul that was "endowed by the Creator" and which can only be fulfilled "by the Creator". Soon, I am responsible for my own existence and all I want is a "pursuit of Happiness" devoid of the "unalienable" nature of "Life" and "Liberty". Thus, our "one nation under God" no longer believes in being "endowed by the Creator". Instead, we champion being "endowed" in our relentless "pursuit of Happiness". Our nation may be independent, but I ask us today: are we free?
To separate freedom from as only coming from Christ is like separating what happened in Philadelphia in 1776 from what happened at Plymouth Rock in 1620.
Man is only truly free in Christ, not from Christ. In Jesus, and only in Jesus, can I be freed from the very things that enslave my soul. In Christ, and only in Christ, can I be free to love as I am designed to, and, therein, receive the very peace I innately long for. Freedom is "endowed by the Creator" and, thus, can only be found in the Creator.
While our nation, for the most part, continues to enslave itself in libertinism, its citizens must first look within themselves to individually ask what they need to be freed from. Today, as we celebrate "that [we] are endowed by [our] Creator" let us author our personal Declarations of Dependence by surrendering to Christ anything that prevents us live in Christ.
© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013
Today at IPF:
Today, the 169 seminarians in the Seminarians Summer Program are off for the holiday weekend. They will return to campus Sunday afternoon. Monday they begin a new course on the Liturgy.
The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 6 of the 30-day retreat.
Today's Quote from Pope Benedict XVI:
"Christian liberty is never to be identified with libertinism or with the freedom to do as one pleases; it is enacted in conformity with Christ and, hence, in true service to our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need."
― General Audience, October 1, 2008
Because it's the 4th of July:
Comments on the 4th of July from Fr. Robert Barron ...