14 Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 5, 2020
Someone texted me a cartoon. “Lady Liberty” had stepped down from and was hiding behind the base on which she has stood since the late 19th century. Peeking around the corner of her pedestal, there is a frightened look on her face. The caption reads:
IS IT SAFE TO COME OUT YET?
I am embarrassed to admit that when I first looked at the cartoon, I laughed. But it didn’t take long for it to dawn on me that the silly little picture takes its meaning from something that is far from laughable. The recent social unrest in our nation, resulting in the removal of public statues and monuments that, in 2020, are regarded as offensive, politically incorrect, immoral, or even sinful, is nothing to joke about. There is nothing humorous about the turmoil and division we are presently experiencing.
Although it would be difficult to think of a reason why any American would consider toppling “Lady Liberty,” one can’t help but wonder if the bronze plaque affixed to the interior wall of the pedestal is safe. The concluding lines read:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Things have changed so dramatically and so quickly in recent years that, here in America, and, in fact, throughout the world, there is a growing sense of nationalism to the point that it is really questionable as to whether the invitation on that bronze plaque still stands. Moreover, immigration is just one of many very complicated social issues being hotly debated “by the wise and the learned” both here and abroad. It seems that there are no easy solutions…and no end in sight to this turmoil and division.
It must be said, and with great emphasis, that patriotism and love of country are very admirable qualities. No one can deny that fact. Had it not been for the generations of loyal Americans who responded to the various threats to our democracy throughout our nation’s history, “Lady Liberty” might well have been torn down and thrown into the river by enemies bent on the destruction of “The American Dream.”
Had it not been for the patriots who risked and sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms that were envisioned by our Founders as they signed The Declaration of Independence, we very well may not be able to gather…publicly…on this 4th of July weekend, to celebrate Eucharist. That said, we must also be mindful of the danger in allowing patriotism to morph into xenophobia…the fear or hatred of things…or people…perceived to be foreign or strange or different.
How can we possibly hope to end the turmoil and division when the issues are so very complicated? Well, in our Gospel, Jesus tells us:
For although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones.
That line took me back many years to when I was a first grader in Catholic school. We learned The Pledge of Allegiance even as the good sisters taught us our prayers. Among the prayers we committed to memory along with The Pledge of Allegiance were The Acts of FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE. As “little ones,” we somehow developed an understanding that we Americans were defenders of FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.
When we said those words:
…One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…it engrained within us, even at such a young age, an understanding that in our United States, patriotism and religion were not only compatible, but that loyalty to our country was a way of being faithful to the Gospel. In other words, “The American Dream” was in complete harmony with and even a way of living out the dream of a new creation…a new way of existing in harmony and peace with liberty and justice for all!
The dream that Jesus reveals in the Gospel.
So, on this Independence Day weekend, it is good for us to remember that The Gospel cannot stand behind the American dream…frightened…peeking out…asking: IS IT SAFE TO COME OUT YET?
The Gospel, calling us to live together with FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE rests on Christ and cannot be toppled.