Amos 8:4-6, 9-12
"The Lord speaks of peace to his people" (Refrain, Responsorial Psalm)
Today, the Fourth of July, we celebrate Independence Day in the United States. Almost every country has a similar national holiday. It seems that governments become overbearing and suddenly a desire to live a better life, a life free from oppression and tyranny, swells within the hearts and minds of peoples. They clamor for freedom and liberty and justice for all.
The United States has special readings for today’s Mass. The first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 57:15 – 19. It is a reading of hope and promise for a people who have betrayed God by their infidelity to the sacred covenant established between God and the People of Israel. It is a reading of forgiveness and tenderness: "I will heal them and lead them; I will give them full comfort," God says through the words of the Prophet in this reading.
The Responsorial Psalm repeats a mantra that comes from the heart: "The Lord speaks of peace to his people." For true peace comes from God. It is a peace that enables kindness and truth to meet and justice and peace to kiss. What inspirations those images give us!
Then Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 4:6 – 9), "the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Finally, the Gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the time when He will not be with them. In this gospel (John 14:23 -29), Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." These are words of encouragement so that we, his disciples, can hold on to these truths despite moments of difficulties and troubles.
On this day, we are thankful to God for giving us this country which needs to witness to a more perfect way, a way of peace and justice, of respect for life and the sharing of our resources, a country where no man, woman or child needs to go to bed hungry, or be frightened because of hatreds and prejudices that people have in their hearts, a country that can respect the other, just because they have inalienable rights. These rights do not come from a Constitution, but from God’s personal love for each and every one of us!
May this holiday open our hearts and minds to everyone who comes here, just because they are children of God and brothers and sisters to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.