Friends, I can’t believe it’s been one year for me here at St. James. I remember vividly my first weekend with you and the promise I made to you, that is, to love you with a pastor’s heart. Well, the Cardinal has just made that a lot easier by naming me the Pastor of St. James the Apostle Church as of July 1st ! The formal installation will take place on Sunday, September 18th, and will coincide with the launch of our centennial celebrations.
I can hardly expressed how overjoyed I am to have the opportunity to lead you, to pray with you, and to partner with you in building up the Kingdom of God in our small part of the world. We have been able to accomplish quite a lot over these last 12 months, and so I am eager and excited for what’s to come. Please know that I am grateful for your continued love and support. Thank you, and I LOVE YOU!
In light of our great national holiday, July 4th – Independence Day – I’d like to reflect a bit on “FREEDOM.” We hear William Wallace belt out “FREEDOM,” and even though he isn’t American, we greatly sympathize with his passion. Or when we hear in a country song that “freedom isn’t free,” a wave of gratitude for the sacrifices of many men and women in uniform washes over us. Yes, as Americans, freedom is something we cherish. And I’d say it’s up there among the highest values in America…But what is freedom?
Almost 200 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a famous French political philosopher, visited our nation to uncover the secret of our greatness. He traveled from town to town, talking with people, asking questions, and examining every facet of our society. Returning to France, he wrote these amazing words: “I sought for America’s greatness. I found it not in her fields & forests. I found it not in her mines & factories. I found it not in her Congress & great tribunals. It was only when I entered her churches & heard her pulpits thundering against sin & preaching righteousness that I discovered the secret of her greatness. America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” It is interesting how Alexis de Tocqueville connected America’s greatness to the good derived from its religious institutions.
But according to the contemporary secular sentiment, religion serves only to cramp human freedom. Religion – so it goes – is the antithesis of freedom, for it serves the purpose of oppression and control. By jettisoning religion, with all its laws, do’s and don’ts, and its dogmas, these critics claim we’d be happier without religion because then we wouldn’t have to worry about answering to a judgmental God, nor would we have to carry around all the guilt that’s derived from the heavy moral demands that religion places on us.
Friends, modernity celebrates human freedom and seeks to protect its integrity. We Catholics value freedom as one of the greatest gifts God has given us. But now here’s the difference – the Church insists that faith in Christ is not the enemy of this freedom but the guarantor of freedom.
You see, freedom is conditioned by what freedom chooses…what that means is, our choices either enhance our freedom or diminish it depending on what we choose. Now, this points us to why Alexis de Tocqueville found the secret to America’s greatness in her churches. It’s because that’s where the ground of true freedom is found – a relationship with Jesus Christ!
Quote of the Week
Sometimes we don’t realize the blessings we have until we no longer have them. Appreciate all the blessings in your life. Take none for granted.