July Fourth 2019 - May We Revive Our Flagging Faith

Founding Father John Adams had the right idea.

When he wrote a letter to his wife on July 3, 1776, he described how future generations of Americans ought to celebrate our nation's Independence Day.

He called for "Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

But first and foremost, the statesman who would serve as second president of the United States, wrote, "It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty."

In other words: parades, fireworks - and the First Commandment!

At a time when factions of Americans find themselves ensnared in partisan and poisonous passions, and at a time when we struggle to govern according to our nation's founding principles, it's hard to go wrong if our to-do list as a nation begins with the First Commandment.

I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods before Me.

By solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty, by adhering to the First Commandment, we orient ourselves to our Creator who, through love, holds us in existence and calls us to communion with Himself.

The common good and the public order demand it.

On this Fourth of July, Adams' words remind us that our primary covenant is with God, not with any given political party, nor with the false gods of power, money, and fleeting pleasures.

We are called to uphold our end of the covenant with God, and that means surrendering to the supernatural life, to the One True God who expects more from us than simply being "good people." We are called to be saints.

Indeed, there's a good reason why the First Commandment is the First Commandment. It's certainly not because God has a sensitive self-image in need of placating by our devotion to Him. It's first because we need Him. Only by His graces may we become the people He created us to be.

We read in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska how she continually strove to live in the presence of God and to communicate God's mercy to others. Docile to every inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. Faustina writes:

I know well, O Lord, that You have no need of our works; You demand love. Love, love and once again, love of God - there is nothing greater in heaven or on earth. The greatest greatness is to love God; true greatness is in loving God; real wisdom is to love God. All that is great and beautiful is in God; there is no beauty or greatness outside of Him. O you sages of the world and you great minds, recognize that true greatness is in loving God! Oh, how astonished I am that some people deceive themselves, saying: There is no eternity! (990)

When we pledge our devotion to God above all else, as St. Faustina did, and when we love with all our heart the God who created us in love, we bring order to our lives and thereby claim the freedom He intends for us. That is to say, true freedom - freedom definitively bound to the ultimate good, which is God who seeks to dwell in our hearts and sanctify our words and actions.

This freedom allows us to fearlessly seek to do what's right in all the everyday moments of our lives. It protects us from the sort of behavior and mentality that invites His wrath. As St. Paul said to the Romans, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised" (1:25).

The First Commandment serves as an antidote to worrisome and wearisome times because it impels us to take down our blinders, lower our guards, and to reflect upon where we came from and to whom we belong. The First Commandment serves as an invitation to rejoice in His love for us and for all of creation.

A nation that adheres to the First Commandment can then go about the business of properly caring for itself, of fairly conducting its commerce, of neighbor readily serving neighbor, of seeking goodness for others, of excluding no one, of caring for the weak, and of seeing ourselves for who we truly are. We are, each of us, sinners called to take up in earnest our baptismal vocation to holiness, to step upon the road of salvation, a path prepared by Christ who came to the earth to share with us His own divine life.

A nation that adheres to the First Commandment sheds its unholy appetites and inclinations. It eschews self-righteousness and arrogance. It embraces humility, self-sacrifice, and forbearance. It doesn't seek to wound another, to gossip, to boast, and to lie. Its best interests aren't pursued to the detriment of others. When it speaks, it knows its facts. When it acts, it does so with radical love.

After all, we are - all of us - little and broken. But when we give ourselves in trust to God, He does what He promises, what His heart aches to do: He holds us and pours out His graces upon us.

He is the Lord our God. To place other people, other things, other desires, other beliefs before Him is a recipe for our destruction. The Bible says so.

Love the Lord, our God. Then, behold the fireworks.

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