With the 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence upon us, it seems fitting to ponder the price of freedom and the meaning of true independence. Many have paid the ultimate price with their very lives in order to help establish the freedoms that America has enjoyed for so long. The selflessness required of soldiers to march forward into battle is fostered in part by focusing on greater goods, such as the common good of their fellow man, and the good of generations yet to come. Selflessness is also fostered by the realization that evil must be dealt with, either by overthrowing it or by escaping from its grasp.
Realization ignites desire for good.
Realizing that we are bound by something evil is enlightening. When our mind’s eye has opened and we see that it is necessary to break free from that which is evil, we desire freedom. Desiring to break free from evil sparks the flame of hope within our breast – the hope for something good, something better- and thus encouraged, we commence our declaration to be slaves no longer.
From our own Declaration of Independence we read, “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government . . . ”
It is our duty.
We have a duty to throw off evil. This duty is owed to ourselves, for the protection of our God-given rights, but also owed to others for the protection of their rights as well. From our own Declaration of Independence again, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” The prince of darkness has no claim over us. “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 We have been made free sons and daughters of the Most High God. The price of true freedom is nothing compared to the price of bondage to evil.
Thus, it is good to note that we have a solemn duty to overthrow evil – which begins with realization, gathers hope by desiring good, and commences with our declaration of independence from evil. The declaration is a key event in the battle for freedom from tyranny. It is necessary that an act be made to signal the start of our rejection of evil, much like the first shot in war. This inspires and activates our courage, while making a formal statement of “game on” to our enemy, whether seen or unseen. In our baptismal promises, often renewed as a congregation, Catholics declare their rejection of Satan and “all his empty promises.” This declaration is done privately by every reception of the sacraments, especially confession, and in every recitation of the Act of Contrition.
Stay in the light.
A bonfire of burning desire ignites from that first flame of hope, lighting the way through our battle against darkness. There will be a battle, sometimes intense, and other times unseen, like a wolf circling in the darkness. Our evil tyrant will not want to carry the same chains he has laid upon us; he will protest long and loudly. Plotting against us in the shadows, it is only known by its howl—sometimes pitiful and other times terrifying. When evil is unseen, but felt in the depths of our being, we can be shaken and our vision blurred. We must refocus. Grasping the light from our burning desire for goodness, and wielding it bravely like a torch, we overpower the terror and march forward. For our battle is not of flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers. Therefore, the light of our torch must be not of fire and wood, but the fire of the Holy Spirit and grace from the wood of the cross.
Christ is the light.
As Catholic Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ. He is our light. He has already exposed the heavy burden of serving an evil master in darkness. Under tyranny, we will remain ever in servitude without reward. By true service to God in freedom, we are rewarded for our efforts, but with service as a slave to evil we remain ever toiling. Whereas evil lays an insatiable hunger upon our shoulders that shakes our hearts into restlessness, Jesus gives us the bread of life and promises an easy yoke. During His life on earth, Jesus taught us that the wages of sin is death, and submitting His will to His Father in heaven, paid those wages for us. No tyrant ever carried the load of his subjects for them. Should we doubt, should we step out of the light and stumble in the darkness, God is always ready to forgive us and refuel the light of life in within our souls. Our battle has already been shown to us by the example of and has been shown to be victorious if we keep walking in the light.
Being free, be a light to others.
By focusing upon the greatest good of all—eternal life—we shall overcome the evils of this life. We shall be servants of a master who satisfies our hearts, nourishes our souls, and rewards our work. “For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person . . . ” 1 Corinthians 7:22 Our gaze must be fixed on that place of light, peace, and joy. While walking in the light, the interior flame of hope we carry will be a source of hope to others, and bear witness to the greatness of the glory of God. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8
May you all have a very happy Independence Day weekend and remain on the path of light, blessed by God.