A few days ago we remembered the foundation of our church with the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. Today we remember the foundation of our country, July 4, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Like church feasts, national feasts are times to celebrate. But this year we’re not going to do much of that. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. Our public celebrations, for the most part, have been canceled.
Church feasts are also a time to reflect, so maybe today we can reflect on what this national holiday means.
Where can we learn about what this day means? Historians say this day didn’t happen without much struggle. Political fighting, interest groups, foreign powers, war–all had a part in it. Founding our country was not as easy as we might think. But somehow all these conflicting interests came together around an ideal.
Can we remember that ideal today?
The Declaration of Independence was a statement of great ideals, but those ideals were not applied to everyone. Have the native peoples here on this continent before us, the African peoples brought here as slaves, been treated as “created equal” with “certain unalienable rights?”
Have the poor and the immigrant been seen as equal?
Church feasts celebrate graces of God. They lift us up to aspire to great ideals and promises. We’re called to do that today.
But we always begin feasts with prayers for forgiveness, acknowledgement of failures, and calls for mercy: “Lord, have mercy.”
“America the Beautiful… God mend thine every flaw, and crown thy good with brotherhood, with liberty and law.”
Father of all nations and ages,
we recall the day when our country
claimed its place among the family of nations;
for what has been achieved we give you thanks,
for the work that still remains we ask your help,
and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings
with all the peoples of the earth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.