July 4, 2014 - Independent Day:

Colossians 3:9-17 ; Matthew 22:15-21

Give to God what belongs to God.  With this brief injunction, the Lord coined a memorable saying that conveys a lesson whose import far transcends the particular matter of paying taxes to a pagan ruler.  How often Jesus' words open out into realities that invite his hearer to enter into further vistas of insight than the immediate setting entails! His sayings regularly imply far more than they explicitly state.  Earnest believers who take seriously Jesus invitation to his Jewish critics to "Search the Scriptures, for you think that you have eternal life in them, and it is they that give testimony of me."   (John 5:39)

Another impressive instance that Matthew records is the statement that the apostles are to let children come to him for "of such is the kingdom of heaven."   Saint Therese built a whole way of life and a practical, coherent doctrine founded on the implied content of this simple saying.  The words and the acts of Gospels regularly present us with meaningful realities that become accessible only by reflective consideration.  They can be accessed only by desire to penetrate the surface of the world to the invisible levels of a reality that is multi-tiered. In modern times the great discoveries in the fields of science have disclosed a universe vastly more complex than appears to our senses.  Already in the fourth century, Evagrius Ponticus, in the solitude of the Egyptian desert, came to realize that the path to true freedom for our human race, led through the hidden levels of the outer and inner world.  Purifying the heart by elimination of disordered passion allow the person to discern the presence of God in the created world.  He is manifested in the intelligence, goodness, loving and providential care that is revealed in the existence and ongoing processes of our universe.

The history of the ongoing series of progressive insights into the nature of the matter that constitutes the physical world we live in is fascinating.  Beginning with the invention of the telescope by Galileo in 1609, and the perfected microscope that revealed to Anton Leeuwenhoek in 1683 the world of single-cell organisms, our universe, and the planet earth took on fresh spiritual as well as physical significance.  The implications for our spiritual life become even more intriguing when we include the human body in its development and functioning in its manifold systems.  The invention of the Functional Magnetic Resonance allows exploration of our brain in a variety of its operations.  Each of these exploratory methods furnish us with evidence of God's continuing active presence in creation in great detail.  We are provided with immense indications of God's intelligence, power, care and beauty manifested in his handiwork.

For the freedom we celebrate with thanksgiving to God today on this Fourth of July represents the exercise of an essential characteristic of the human person.  We, in recent times have reason to appreciate the gift of political freedom with a fresh awareness of its worth for we have felt its weakening in major areas of life.  The threat of loss of freedom in areas that impinge on the moral values integral with our Catholic faith renders us more conscious of the necessity of the political freedom we have inherited from our founding fathers and their faithful followers. May we and our generation of Americans prove worthy of such an inherited gift.

Our Lord and Savior spoke of the true nature of freedom in connection with his teaching.  In the course of his preaching to those fellow Jews who believed in him, Jesus stated: "If you remain in my word you will be my disciples and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."   When some others in his audience objected he insisted and declared "If the Son makes you free you will truly be free." (John 8:32, 36).  May this Eucharist that we celebrate on this day of national commemoration enhance our gratitude to our heavenly Father for the gift of his beloved Son, the source of all true freedom, the liberty of the children of God.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger