Yesterday was Independence Day, July 4th. Today we celebrate that day on July 5th, the closest Sunday from July 4th. I open this homily with a prayer of Abraham Lincoln that is definitely “apropos” to us today as it was when it was penned.
“Lord, give us faith that right makes might. Grant, O merciful God, that with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as you give us to see the right, we may strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the United States)
When you think of Independence Day, Fourth of July celebrations what do you think about? Okay, I confess. I think of fireworks, family barbeques, picnics, parades, a day of relaxing on the beach or sitting around a table with friends and loved ones, enjoying a Padres baseball game on TV, or visiting the gravesites of veterans or other loved ones that have passed on. In my mind all these comforting things point to an appreciation of the freedom that we have in our country to make decisions about careers, the opportunity to vote and express opinions without fear of reprisal.
When I watch fireworks, smell hamburgers or ears of corn cooking on grills, or sitting down to enjoy homemade potato salad, pork and beans and a tall glass of ice tea, it points me to the reality of the price others have paid for my freedom, this lifestyle I enjoy not only on Independence Day, but on every other day of the year. And, on this day I am especially grateful for veterans that have died and those that have been wounded and those that have not been wounded that have served in the military for our country all the way back to 1776, and to the current time of our soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and those serving at places around the world on our behalf.
This is a day to be grateful, to appreciate and to celebrate the United States of America, which George Washington dubbed as the “Great Experiment”. Does that mean we are without reproach, and that we are a model of how to function as a nation? I don’t even begin to claim that truth. “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, that was the plan: it is sad that today, hundreds of years later, we are not there yet. Winston Churchill aptly compared Democracy with other forms of government this way, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
I am thankful that the way we treat our returning and wounded veterans is during a major overhaul. The military hospitals and the Veteran Administration Hospitals are revamping their medical treatments for returning veterans. We are not there yet, but public outcry and recognition in our nation that we have not been patriotic in serving the heroes of our nation, our veterans, is making a difference. If you have been following the recent news, you will agree that we have failed in our commitment to the veterans of our nation. This has been a slap in the face and a disgrace to all of us as a testimony of showing respect and patriotism to those that suffered and are continuing to suffer on our behalf.
In our gospel passage today, Jesus says: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, around those that know them.” Our veterans may not be prophets, but they are our brothers and sisters, and on this day may we honor them as well as all those that have gone before them to insure that we have the opportunity to share and celebrate the Independence of our nation, the celebration of what is referred to of our nation as “the Great Experiment”.