Reflection (from Give Us This Day)

Abraham Lincoln said that he was not so concerned whether God is on our country’s side, but he was quite concerned that we be on God’s side. In the United States of America today we give thanks for 238 years of independence and freedom. As we celebrate, let’s keep Lincoln’s distinction in mind.

We do not believe in a God who is our insurance policy in the sky, or our reliable heavenly ally in all our battles. Instead, we place our faith in a loving Creator and Redeemer who calls us to live in his love and to share that love in action with our sisters and brothers in the human family.

Our special prayers and readings for Mass on this Fourth of July show us clearly what it means for us to be “on God’s side.” The readings urge us to seek and work for what God values in our lives: peace, justice, truth, wisdom, goodness, and love. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises to forgive our sins and to revive us when we are dejected and downhearted. St. Paul tells the Philippians—and us—not to be anxious but to pray and be thankful, to welcome God’s peace into our hearts, and to behave in ways worthy of praise. Jesus, during the Last Supper, promises that he and his Father will live within us if we will keep his word, his command of love. Jesus also promises to send the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us and to give us the peace that comes with living as he has taught us.

The flags, the picnics, the parades, and the fireworks express our joy in our freedom. True, it is a freedom from tyranny and oppression, but even more importantly it is a freedom for being “on God’s side,” in loving service to others for love of God.

Archbishop George Niederauer

The Most Reverend George H. Niederauer is Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco.

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