This coming week we will be celebrating the Fourth of July. Fifty years after the birth of our Nation, Freeport was in its infant stage. In 1827, the first Catholic Mass was celebrated in Stephenson County, followed by a large crowd of immigrants that came from Germany to see this town grow, mature, and found many churches. From the outset, many Catholics throughout the world have been able to come here and provide a better living for their families. It is part of the “American dream.”
What supplied that ability to pursue a better life are the many people who were willing to give their lives for such high ideals. Without their sacrifices, many dreams would never have been dreamt. Freedom has its costs. It also needs to be maintained. Sacrifices still need to be made today in order to maintain a just society. We still need people who are willing to sacrifice for democracy. Most importantly, we need citizens who are willing to sacrifice for the good of each other.
It means living the way God would have us live. It means living out a virtuous life. It means being honest in business dealings, with friends, and in the home. It does not relinquish the responsibility of the citizen to the state. The Bible says for you to take care of the poor. It does not say to build a government to take care of the poor. Virtue demands that we not enable; without prudence, we have no virtue.
These are the very basics of our country and the principles of our understanding of how the ideals of the American experiment can continue. They come from our Christian faith. No other faith could build such a society. The Ten Commandments demand that we do not kill other innocent people, steal or lie to each other. They are commandments, not suggestions, by which we are liable to condemnation to hell by our God. Our laws reflect this by the fact that a person goes to jail if they do such a thing. God has shared with us His wisdom in knowing how to live and build a just society without prejudice.
Faith makes us better citizens and a better society by guiding us away from selfishness or a false sense of freedom to live a life in truth and goodness. This goodness is not based on a earthly way of thinking. It would not convince us to do an evil, in hopes that something good can out of it. It is a way of living that is of a higher standard. Quick fixes are not the standard. The standard is not just of intelligent thoughtfulness, it is in the order of grace and Godliness.
This is what our country has opened the door for in the United States. Our freedom has given us the ability to be a great nation. If we use our freedom to do evil and deny God, we have the potential to be a very oppressive nation. That is why our faith is so important to the life of this great country. Faith in Jesus Christ breathes life, wholeness and healing into our country. Without it, the commandments are just suggestions, nice thoughts and not very practical. Our country would just be an endless succession of events with no real meaning as the sign of the times makes its never-ending demands. Our country would be pointless.
Is our country pointless? Have so many blessings come to us and our ancestors for no real meaning? The people who have already made their sacrifices cannot be relegated to such despair. Their lives have changed too much in this world to let it go and give up. Grace has made a difference. We should always remember the graces God has favored us with. We should strive to always live out those graces and the high standards that make us such a lofty nation.