We are excited to celebrate July 4th. We are grateful for our country, and we want to be good citizens. Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826 wrote in a letter: “May it be to the world, what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains ... and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. ...For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
The best things we can do to become better citizens is to be better Christians. Every year around July 4th, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invites us to pray for religious freedom. We are excited to celebrate July 4th, but we need to hold onto that spirit every day, every aspect of our life.
This weekend’s readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us. They urge and challenge us to be grateful for our health in body and soul and to use God’s gifts of life and health responsibly.
In the first reading from the book of Wisdom we heard that God does not make death. What is death? Every living being dies. What is our experience about death? Fearful…..isn’t it? This death God does not invent.
Now let us go back to book of Wisdom for the answer to where death comes from. It reads, “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.” Man had rejected God’s gift and misused his freedom. As a result of his sin, man no longer shared in God’s nature.
The Gospel tells the story about the raising of a twelve year old girl from the dead. When Jesus came to the house, they told him that she was dead. Jesus disregards the message about death. He says do not be afraid, but have faith. Jesus sees death as a falling asleep. Little girl, arise, Talitha Kaum.
Jesus brought numerous people to life. Ultimately, like Paul says in the second reading, “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the sacrificial love of Jesus restores man’s ability to receive life of God.
God did not make death. He does not cause evil. He cries with us, bawls with us in the face of the horror of the world. But He is not defeated. He restores His life to those who accept Him.