SAN FRANCISCO – Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco offered a Reflection for the faithful on the ocassion of the celebration of Independence Day. The full text follows:
Each year on July 4 we celebrate the Independence of this great nation, the United States of America. We think of it as a summer holiday, a celebration with parades, backyard barbeques and, after sunset, we gaze at the spectacle of the evening sky with fireworks. When the 56 representatives from 13 colonies met [in] Congress to declare their independence from England, they opened a new trajectory for humanity with the assertion that “all men are created equal” and that governments are created by the people “deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.” The Declaration of Independence is considered one of the most significant documents in our country’s history, which led to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which govern our nation today.
Gaining our independence, our freedom, as a nation, came with opportunities but also presented challenges. Over the years, there have been hard-fought wars, the Great Depression, the [Great Recession], terrorism, natural disasters, and even our most recent pandemic. Through it all, we have stood tall, just as Lady Liberty does in the New York Harbor, raising her flame to light the way for us, to never lose hope, and to persevere through all circumstances.
We are not just citizens of this land, but we are also part of the greater Kingdom that God has prepared for us. Saint Paul writes to the Philippians, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). While we have laws that govern us and guide our actions to preserve and protect our freedoms, so does God give us direction for our lives, with the Ten Commandments, and the teachings He imparted during His time on Earth. Freedom may seem readily accessible, but it is something to be earned, something to be nurtured, and something for which to be grateful.
In the past nearly 18 months, we experienced what it feels like to have freedom taken from us. For the most part, we were confined to our homes. Kitchens and bedrooms became offices. Computer monitors became our place of worship. The evening news became a harbinger of sadness, relaying statistics of sickness and death. Now, we give thanks that this experience is moving behind us, and we can once again worship as a Body of Christ, giving thanks for the freedom to experience the fullness of the Church through the Liturgy and Holy Sacraments.
As we look to Independence Day and its significance for our nation, let us remember the words of our forefathers who crafted such a powerful message to govern this country, and may our hearts be filled with gratitude as we honor those who fought for our freedom and the freedom of those around the world. Let us also remember an even greater message, that from the Lord Himself, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31).
God bless you and may God Bless America!