Fourth of July

As we celebrate our Independence Day, the nation seems to be on edge. With the pandemic increasing its threat in several states, with protests still filling our city streets, and with an election around the corner, citizens feel pulled in many different directions. Many of us feel fearful and anxious rather than celebratory. Some are even concerned that our perfect union may be fraying at the edges. How can we elevate our spirits and honor our national heritage as we should?

We need to pause. We need to take a step back. We must become conscious of our rich heritage. We must remind ourselves of our complex and proud history. We need to recall the memory of men and women who sacrificed themselves for our freedom and built up our great nation. In moments of turmoil, we are tempted to lose sight of the positives that far outweigh the negatives. However, we cannot ignore our failures and missteps. We need to work towards reconciliation so that every American, no matter their color, creed or race, feels respected and valued. In our efforts to build such a society, we face a huge obstacle – polarization.

In recent years there has been a growing polarization of the country. Individuals who embrace certain political and religious views tend to network with the people of the same mindset. People consume media content that reinforce their confirmed opinions. Instead of initiating an open-minded dialogue and conversation, it would seem that people prefer to engage in name-calling, labeling and arguing over semantics. As a result there would appear to be much suspicion and resentment between the two ends of the ideological spectrum. Unfortunately those who seek to be moderate and open are rejected by both sides.

It does not help the situation that we do not show much respect for each other. Those on the left seem to dismiss those on the right as dim-witted and unenlightened. On the other hand, those on the right would appear to berate those on the left as immoral, bereft of any virtue. We know that both stances are mistaken. We need to convince our citizenry that we can respect each other even though we may not see eye-to-eye on certain things. 

The Fathers of our nation desired that all citizens practice the virtues of the republic: civility, mutual respect, and willingness to engage in dialog. Inspired by the words of the Master, all Christians should approach each other with deep reverence. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to Me.” If we take those words seriously, we will realize that if we disrespect someone for their views, then we are disrespecting Christ Himself. We need to echo the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, “Father, I pray that they may be one just as You and I are one.” We need to pray for greater unity especially at this time of national unrest. 

Our natural tendency may push us to react with anger towards someone who embraces views that seem to threaten our philosophical foundations. However, we must remember that our anger towards the other calls into question the truth of what we hold. Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel had relevant words in this regard: “In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves.” 

In my work with couples I tell them that it is conflict that makes or breaks a marriage. In handling conflicts couples introduce all the bad stuff into the relationship – anger, sarcasm, put-downs, bitterness and resentment. I like to remind them that at the end of our lives it will not matter whether we were right or wrong. It will certainly matter whether we were loving. In our parish we conduct many funerals. At funerals people consistently express their respect and admiration for the deceased not because they embraced a certain ideology, but because they were loving and kind. Ideology can easily blind us to such an extent that we fail to love. We can be blinded by our ideology so much that we can compromise our own moral values.

Giving our total loyalty to an ideology will destroy us in the long term. As Christians we are called upon to commit ourselves not to an ideology but to a person – the person of Jesus Christ. Because we are committed to the person of Christ we are also dedicated to every human person, no matter who they are. Unquestioning surrender to an ideology leads to numerous problems in society. It gives birth to nefarious, ruthless movements, and it can lead to horrible events such as ethnic cleansings seen even in our own time. When we come to the end of our lives we will be judged not by our commitment to an ideology but by our service to persons.

More than ever, at this point in our history as a nation we need to work together. The problems that face us are enormous and we cannot go it alone. Let us pray that all sides will seek common ground. As the Good St Pope John XXIII challenges us, “Let us look for things that unite us rather than things that divide us.” As we celebrate our nation, mindful of our many blessings let us pray that we will enter into a new era of openness, mutual respect and willingness to dialogue. May the God of peace accompany us on this journey!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

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