Taking Up the Cross of Sacrifice — Saluting the Flag of Freedom

July 2, 2017

This week the Gospel challenges us to be worthy of the faith we have received as a gift.  This sacramental life of grace is a gift.  Jesus offers us this gift and an example of how to live it.  He challenges us to be worthy.  To be worthy we must pick up our cross every day.  We must accept the sacrifices in our lives and go the extra mile with others by living Gospel values.  He invites us to love our enemies.  He invites us to lift the burdens of others through feeding the hungry, visiting those imprisoned and caring for the needs of those who grieve.  The power of Jesus is the victory He won for all of us on the Cross.  We gather this week to reflect on the sacrifice that made our faith eternal and the revolution which began our nation.

On the fourth of July, amidst the powerful display of patriotism, lies a crucial divide.  This nation polarized by so many factions is still one nation under God.  We seem to have lost that.  While flags will be flown this day and the Pledge of Allegiance will fill our hearts with pride, there is a responsibility to freedom and to remember the revolution of the past.  Our faith knows that it was an Eternal gift from the Son of God who sacrificed His very life that we might live.  Our forefathers made great sacrifices to forge a nation that would end the divisions of the past and create a united front.  It is hard for us to understand the courage it took for the Minute Men to stand up to a better funded and better equipped British army.  But the vision was worth the fight and the freedom was worth the promise of starting anew.  Over 200 years later we are faced with difficult tasks and great divisions.  From Republicans to Democrats, from conservatism and liberalism, to the divisions caused by race and religion, hatred not unity, seems to be a common thread in each State of our Union.  Those who have and those who have not, are farther apart now than ever before.

The journey back to the beginning is necessary for our faith to flourish and our nation to thrive.  It is similar in nature.  What we have lost is a sense of wonder and awe for the history that leads us to these moments.  For us Catholics, our efforts to get acquainted with biblical times and the covenants of the past will lead us to the inspiring life of Jesus who fulfills the covenants and makes them new and eternal.  Without understanding of this covenant and Passover, our reflection on the Eucharist can fall short.  Without understanding the sin of Adam and Eve, the Sacrifice of the Cross can lead us into a shallowness of the Mystery.  Knowing the depth of the biblical culture allows us to love even more profoundly what Jesus did.

As for our nation, until we reflect on responsibilities of freedom, revisit the Constitution and encounter a respect for the vision, our efforts for peace can easily fall short.  The importance of our country’s early years is a testimony to the compromise made between the North and the South.  It is a story of explorers and dreamers, settlers and rugged individuals who needed one another and relied on each other.  The flag of one nation symbolized the early colonists’ need for each other.  Stitched together by thread, forged together by a revolutionary war, the common bond of security and safety came not from pointing out differences, but by admitting although different, we would stand together. To lose a love for the early days of our nation, is to look only at the present with greed and opportunity.

It is time to get back to basics; let’s get back to one nation under God.  Let’s get back to one God who invites us to pick up our cross and follow Him.

May God bless our Church and
May God bless America,

Reverend John J. Ouper