Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity
July 6, 2014
Two day ago we celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was on that day 238 years ago that the founders of this country declared their independence from a tyrannical government that tried to choke the air of freedom out of the people of this land. The founders of this country understood that mankind must be free and so they broke away from that oppressive government at the risk of their own lives. But, in considering this freedom that they won for us and that we now enjoy, we come up against a very important question – what does this freedom give us the “freedom” to do?
The reason that we must ask this question is because our country now suffers from a very distorted view of what freedom is. For example, it is the rule of law in this land that women have the “freedom” to abort their children and it is increasingly becoming the law that people have the “freedom” to “marry” someone of the same gender. But are we ever really free to do such immoral acts, even it if is legal? Both of these wrong-headed notions of freedom – and others – come from the fact that the ‘idea of freedom’ in this country has become one of the freedom to do whatever we wish – that there are no universal moral standards by which to measure what we should or should not do. In other words, there is prevalent today a disordered way of thinking, which for many people is subconscious, that says there is no real way to determine right from wrong and that anyone who tries to do so is to be labeled a narrow-minded and archaic hate-monger. And it is this disordered thinking that leads even faithful churchgoers to say things like this, “Well, I do not believe that such and such is right; but if someone else wants to do it then who am I to say that they shouldn’t?” This attitude is – quite simply – wrong and, therefore, we must ask why this type of distorted thinking is so prevalent within our society?
To begin to answer this we must first acknowledge that mankind wants to be happy. And since I have made reference to the 4th of July we can of course remind ourselves that the Declaration of Independence says we have the right to pursue happiness. In addition, we should also remember that God Himself wants us to be happy. But, without a correct understanding of what will and what will not make us happy, many people fall into the trap of chasing this or that ‘thing’ thinking that it is the thing that will make them happy. It starts when we are children when we think to ourselves, “If only I could have that toy or that piece of candy, then I would be happy.” And then throughout the rest of our lives it really does not change that much. There are many adults that still pursue various things they think will make them happy – if only I could have that man or woman to be my spouse, if only I had that job, house, car, boat, home theater, vacation, etc., then I would be really and truly happy. But in the end none of these things can satisfy us because we were not created to pursue them as our ultimate goal. To be sure, God did create good things for us to enjoy but we can only really enjoy them if we are willing to be without them.
But why is it that these good things can make us so unhappy once we have obtained them? It is because we have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that we have been created by God and for God – He is our ultimate goal – and if we put anything He has created as the center and ultimate goal of our life then we can never be truly happy. To say it another way, we need to understand and live our lives in accordance with the fact that the primary reason for our existence is to know and love God. With this in mind we can now understand how it is that we should use the freedom that we enjoy in this country.
If it is God who has created us, then it is He who knows what is best for us. And He hasn’t left us without guidance in this matter. Our Lord Jesus Christ has revealed to us the Way to happiness with God. We heard Jesus say today, “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” We, as Catholics, know and believe that Jesus is the revelation of all that we need to know in order to be truly happy. The freedom that God Himself has given to us and that we enjoy in this country can only rightly be used in the pursuit of our ultimate end: to know and to love God. True, God gave us free will and we can, if we wish, choose to do that which is wrong. But if we misuse our freedom in such a way then we will not, and in fact, we cannot be happy. Our freedom and our happiness rests in God alone. And until we – as individuals and as a nation – understand and accept that fact then we can never truly be happy or free.