Beloved in the Lord: CHRIST IS AMONG US!
On Monday, July 4, we observe our most significant national holiday, Independence Day.
On this day, we celebrate the Freedom that is foundational to who we are as Americans, the Freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America that is especially important to celebrate in 2022, the Freedom created by God for every man, woman and child regardless of race, ethnicity or social-economic standing. Governments exist to safeguard and defend human Freedom, to nurture it and allow it to grow. When Freedom is restricted, so will be the God-given potential of each individual and societies are frustrated in their ability to flourish with “liberty and justice for all”.
This “liberty and justice for all” is the precondition for genuine peace which requires justice - the ability to ensure equity, impartiality and fairness among individuals and groups. The Holy Apostle Paul tells us that God’s peace “surpasses all understanding” and that it includes “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” (Phil 4:7-8). As a nation, one of our most important goals must be the preservation of justice and peace within our borders and in international relations. Without peace and justice, our efforts to nurture and grow as individuals, families and communities are severely threatened.
We are “one Nation, under God,” blessed to live in a country where we are able to gather, debate, and discuss issues while fulfilling the Church’s mission to serve. Let us always treasure our ability as Orthodox Christians to offer social, charitable, and educational services in a manner that fully reflects the God-given dignity of the human person. Freedom is a gift, but also a great responsibility. May we never waiver in our gratitude to those who have made our freedom possible, and never falter in our commitment to promote the virtues of “liberty and justice for all”.
Let us remember – on Independence Day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of a nation that “holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men (human beings) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The document propagates a notion of freedom that demands rights and respect for all others – justice, peace and fairness for all. It expects integrity, responsibility and accountability – especially on the part of government - ensuring that no one is above the law. On this day, we celebrate a democracy that is based on right-heartedness and the sense of common good, demanding that we citizens act in accordance with proper moral character and self-restraint.
In a year that has been marked by a pandemic, racial tensions, desperation, economic challenges, the sorrow of community shootings and the ongoing war in Ukraine, it is good for us to remember the final line of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Therefore, as we celebrate this Independence Day, let us turn to God in prayer that all forms of systemic evil, racism and bigotry may be eradicated from our country. Let us pray for courage and strength to stand and fight against structures that limit, inhibit, prohibit and hold people back from rising to their fullest potential and possibility. Let us pray for courage – together and as individuals – to become the voice of the voiceless, the down-trodden, the forgotten and abandoned, the poor and the bullied, those on the margins of our society and the most vulnerable among us. Let us pray for the courage to stand firm for the sanctity of life in all its fullness. Let us pray that this Independence Day celebration may be a personal commitment to freedom, justice, fairness and happiness for all.
Perhaps this prayer, often attributed to George Washington, helps put this celebration into a proper focus:
Almighty God you have given us this great land of the United States of America as our heritage. We humbly pray that we may always remember your generosity and faithfully do your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education and an honorable way of life. Defend our liberties and strengthen the resolve of all those who have come from various places in the world to make the United States of America their home. Lead us to choose the sometimes more difficult “correct” instead of the sometimes much easier “wrong”. Help us to appreciate the opportunities that are ours as we struggle to bring harmony to an unsettled world. May we balance our concern for justice with a willingness to display mercy. May our concern for security be tempered with a willingness to take risks that will produce worthwhile change for the good of all people. O Lord, we pray for your guidance as we work together in the best interests of our communities, our nation, our world. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful and in troubled times, let our deepest trust and faith be forever in You. For You are a Merciful and Loving God and we give glory to You – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
Have a blessed, happy and safe Fourth of July!
By the Grace of God, Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA
By the Grace of God, Archbishop of the UOC of the USA