By Rev. Ray Atwood Sacred Heart Parish
Independence Day, July 4, falls on a Friday this year. We Americans enjoy greater liberty of speech, press, assembly and worship than any nation on earth. Even our neighbor to the north, Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany, and other parts of Europe have restrictions on speech which they deem to be “hateful.” So-called “hate speech” can be punished by fines or imprisonment. So much for “not imposing morality” on others! It is sad that these countries refuse to allow the true free flow of ideas. How can ideas flow freely when those who express them are called “hateful” and must be silenced? We have much for which to be thankful for this Independence Day weekend.
I often think of Paul’s words around Independence Day. “You were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather serve one another through love” (Gal. 5:13). Those are powerful words. Freedom is not an opportunity to satisfy our desire for pleasure, power, and satisfaction. Paul is instead saying that freedom is an opportunity to serve God. Freedom is the environment we need to fulfill the law of love of neighbor and to walk in the Spirit.
God did not make man a robot or mindless creature. Instead He gave us the gifts of reason and free will. These gifts are meant to serve Him and each other. Free will also means that we can choose to turn away from God and serve ourselves. It means we can live a life of pleasure-seeking and indifference toward our neighbor. Sadly this happens all the time. People abuse their freedom, and harm themselves in the end.
If we, on the other hand, understand freedom as opportunity for service, we will be doing ourselves and others a great favor.
As we celebrate our nation’s 238th birthday, may we experience a renewed appreciation of freedom and commit ourselves to using freedom to improve the lives of others.