Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of
of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.
I continue, as I did yesterday, my personal reflections on these words.
As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far way from this vision.
We don’t realize that we are constantly re-birthing America — for good or for ill.
It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to
re-visit that moment of our founding. Imagine what it was like.
Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words and our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.
When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old,
I would go a couple of times a week and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine
and ponder anew the vision of these sacred words.
I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 29 years ago and today as we face this critical election.
They are faith-based thoughts. I do not want to impose them on you.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world,
a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comotose society.
As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?
I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATE EQUAL
AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.
AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
I, as a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my Father.
You are my Father.
But this means that You are not just my Father, but the Father of all the ones you have created.
You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight. We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being with a unique identity, a body and soul, in Your mind and heart from the very beginning
and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.
I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, Father.
And that makes us but sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace all of Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me —
a little place to call home,
simple food on my table,
a decent education
and decent health care.
Help me, Father to recognize and support
the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that we are all one family.
But we are torn apart by hatred and violence; brother still kills brother.
Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.
This is my constant prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace to be able to help bring that about,
not only for the people of America but for the whole world.
To you, heavenly Father,
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus,
all honor and praise and thanksgiving now and forever.
This, sisters and brothers, is my constant prayer for the world in which I live,
the world I wish to be a part of and help to bring into reality.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to be able to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today.
But we rely on ourselves and not on God. Capitalism, by definition, creates that illusion.
I urge you to re-birth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2009.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, every day,
from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations have collapsed because of their complacency before us.
Nevertheless, it is my sense that God IS transforming us.
All we have to do is co-operate with the process.
Let us be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.
Ask God for guidance. Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to bring us through these critical times.
priest / writer