Bottom line: We love our country like we love our parents. Not because our nation is perfect but only by love and gratitude will we make her better.
Happy Fourth of July! Our theme for this weekend is (surprise!) gratitude for country. So far we've talked about gratitude for small things - like a mustard seed or for hands, eyes and feet. On Father's Day we talked about gratitude for our dads and for the gift of fatherhood. Last Sunday we focused on gratitude for our children - and how to pray for children who have distanced themselves from the faith.
Today, as we celebrate Independence Day, we thank God for our nation. This does tie in with our Gospel where we hear about Jesus' return to Nazareth - his native place. It's natural to feel fondness for a person's native land.
Still, it doesn't always happen. When I was a young man - back in the sixties - I considered myself more a "global citizen". I saw our country's many failures and did not want to be identified with them. I looked down on patriotism. Today I consider that attitude a mistake.
Pope St. John Paul said this: "If we ask where patriotism appears in the Decalogue, the reply comes without hesitation: it is covered by the Fourth Commandment, which obliges us to honor our father and mother." We love our parents not because they are perfect or because they never do anything wrong. No, we honor them because Jesus has commanded it. And he promises that if we honor our parents we will have a long life - and a prosperous life.
Something similar applies to love of country. We love our country not because she is perfect but because only by loving her will we make her better.
We have reasons to love our country. I think about my grandfather. At the end of the nineteenth century, he left a country with an ancient class system that kept people down. He came to a nation that gives people opportunities. Grandpa Perich and his two brothers started a small logging operation in Skagit County. They earned enough to help relatives back in the old country. Eventually he brought one of them here. My grandma Perich was in her mid-thirties when he sent for her. In spite of their age, they had two children: my Aunt Katherine and Mary, my mom. I am grateful for the opportunities America gave to my grandparents - and continues to give to so many.
I know that some of our ancestors did not have the same good fortune as my grandparents. Still, we are all here together. If we are going to make our nation better, we have to begin with love and gratitude.
In this homily series, I don't want to give the idea we are grateful only when things go well. St. Paul talks about God giving him a "thorn in the flesh". What exactly that thorn was we don't know. Some scholars speculate that he may have suffered a form of what today we call "depression." I'm reading a helpful book "The Catholic Guide to Depression" by Dr. Aaron Keriaty and Fr. John Cihak. How do we see God at work when our children suffer depression? That will be our theme for next week: gratitude in midst of affliction.
For today, remember that we love our country like we love our parents. Not because our nation is perfect but only by love and gratitude will we make her better. We take to heart these lines from our Independence Day preface: "He (Jesus) spoke to us a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers and sisters. His message lives on in our midst as our task for today and a promise for tomorrow." Amen.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (14th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru