Two hundred forty years. Twelve score years. Since…?
Yes, the Declaration of Independence. But also, the same summer of 1776: St. Junipero Serra founded the California missions of San Francisco of Assisi and San Juan Capistrano, just south of Santa Maria de Los Angeles.
As we read at Sunday Mass, the Lord Jesus said, ‘The harvest is abundant. But it requires a lot of labor.’ We have worked at this USA thing for 240 years, expending countless, noble labors. Working hard to communicate with each other, to cultivate a harmonious life together, to find and elect the right leaders, to educate our children, to step together into a hopeful future.
How can we not take pride in our USA? By God’s grace, we share a genuinely sublime identity. The eternal Son of God became man to reveal the love with which our heavenly Father made us. Christ came to shine the divine light on: the sacred dignity of the human being.
This idea–the beautiful truth that our Creator has willed us all to exist and to thrive–that is the central, unifying idea of our nation. That idea unites a huge, motley collection of pale- and swarthy-skinned people, in the common enterprise of the United States of America.
We read: The Lord commanded His evangelists to say “Peace.” Peace to you. Peace to your family, to your household, to your town.
The idea of human dignity offers us the one, true pathway to lasting peace. ‘Justice’–what does it mean? Doesn’t it mean: Respecting the true dignity of my neighbor? Doesn’t it mean always remembering: ‘This is God’s child, too.’ When we treat each other justly, what breaks out?
Peace. Peaceful things, like cookouts, games of horseshoes, flowers growing in peoples’ gardens, young men and women falling in love and getting married, babies getting born, then growing up and going to school and learning things like Shakespeare and astronomy.
Christ came to teach us: the heavenly Father never willed you to suffer though a wretched, hopeless, slavish life. He wills that you live in full–occasionally enjoying things like fried chicken and ice cream, avoiding sin, and getting to heaven in the end.
By God’s grace, and the labor of the patient generations that have come before us, America has offered us a home where we can occasionally enjoy fried chicken and ice cream, avoid sin, and make our pilgrim way to heaven.
Am I right that the Christian concept of human dignity really is the crucial idea? Government by consent of the governed. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Habeas corpus and trial by jury. Freedom from unlawful search and seizure. Free thinking, free assembling. Praying and serving God according to my own well-educated conscience.
Human dignity. The Creator endows every Tom, Dick, and Harry; every Beckah, Susan, and Sherri; every black, white, mestizo, olive-skinned, or chorizo-eating Puerto-rican Jew with the same dignity. Child of God. Our Founding Fathers declared this to be “self-evident.” Sure. It’s perfectly self-evident. Provided you assume that Jesus Christ lives and breathes and teaches pure truth.
Now, we also read at Mass about how the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem nurse at the abundant breasts of truth, justice, and peace. Prosperity flows over the heavenly city like a river: the prosperity of genuine brotherly love. The kind of genuine brotherly love that fits with a modest lifestyle and a small carbon footprint.
If we get a tiny, little share of that heavenly peace at a happy, multi-generational, American-family Fourth-of-July barbecue–how do we maintain such a peace?
It takes work. Patient, humble labor. The harvest is abundant–when the laborers labor.
As our Holy Father put it in his encyclical on Mother Earth, we must labor to find a new, 21st-century way of interacting with the land, the rivers, and the seas. The 19th- and 20th-century ways have brought us to the brink of ecological disaster.
And we must labor for the rights of our neighbors to whom the promise of human dignity does not currently apply. That, too, is the story of our nation: fighting for those to whom the American promise has not been kept. From where I’m standing, right now that includes two large classes of people: innocent and defenseless unborn children and law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
May the Lord bless and protect our country. We Americans have always hoped for a good future, first and foremost because the Lord has given us such a wonderful land to live in. Why would we stop hoping now?
Yes, in this world, we will have troubles. But Jesus has overcome the evil of the world. So Christian hope does not disappoint. Because God is real; His Christ is real; His Kingdom is real. He says to His children: Take pride in who you are; rejoice that your names are written in heaven!