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With Freedom Comes Responsibilities

In our gospel reading today, Jesus frees people from illnesses. On the Cross, Jesus frees us from our sins.

In the United States of America, today we celebrate another time of freedom. Today is July 4th. It is the anniversary of when the colonists declared their independence from England. Why did they declare their independence? They were responding to taxes and rules imposed on them by England without representation.

In the Declaration of Independence they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yes, all humans are created equal. In the days when the Declaration of Independence was signed, women did not have all the rights that men did. Now, they do. In those days, there was slavery. We now realize slavery is wrong and recognize the rights of all people.

As we celebrate this national holiday it is a good day to express our gratitude for the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is also a good day for us to remember that with these rights comes responsibility, the responsibility to ensure that others enjoy these same rights.

Where do these rights come from? Our Declaration of Independence is clear here. We are endowed by our Creator with these rights.

Under the right of liberty, we pray that everyone have the right to freedom of religion, including to express our religion publicly. There are places in the world where one is not allowed to practice Christian. We need to stand for their religious freedom. Even in our own country, our right to speak about our religious beliefs is being restricted by those who seem more concerned with freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion.

We also have the right to “pursuit of happiness.” What does it mean to be happy? Our right to happiness does not allow us to infringe on the rights of life and liberty for others. We must stand up for the rights of all. Life begins at conception and ends in natural death. We must be prolife from the moment of conception till natural death. (For more on our responsibilities that flow from our rights, see my article, “Rights and Responsibilities.”)

We are free. I spoke last week (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C) in my homily on the subject of what we do with our freedom. There is much work to be done. In our opening prayer today, we asked God for his help to do the work that remains. God, help us to do what you ask of us.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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