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Patriotism is a virtue, a joyous act of gratitude to God for the gift of our homeland. In the Gospel, our blessed Lord returns to his own homeland, Nazareth, but is “amazed at their lack of faith.” Because of their refusal to believe, he “was not able” to perform any mighty deeds among his own people. But: is there anything God can not do? Isn’t he all-powerful? In an absolute sense, God could force the people to believe in Him, but the Gospel shows us that He will not force us to love Him. He waits for us to choose Him freely. Since that Original Sin, all of us have perversely refused God at one time or another. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence were called “rebels” by King George in 1776, but truly we are all rebels before God. Fortunately for us, however, God loves “rebels” enough to send us a prophet, an emissary to speak to us, to reason with us.
Our freedom comes from God: no lesser authority is capable of respecting the human person or rightly ordering a society of free persons. If we forget or deny that it is God, not politics or technology or any human agency, that grants human freedom, we will revert to slavery, to “might makes right,” which is exactly what we sought to escape in 1776. The British Empire declared that our freedom was a gift of the king, and that the might of the Empire’s military would enforce the king’s will. The colonists declared, on this day in 1776, that they would follow a higher power than the king or the government or even the military. If we deny God’s authority, we place ourselves back under the authority of the government and the military.
All people of good will, but especially Christians, and especially the priests and bishops of the Church, must insist on this prophetic truth: God exists, and he sends prophets to reveal to men the ways of true freedom. The Declaration states “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our rights are endowments, gifts, from God. Only He can give and sustain life, freedom, and human happiness. To break these natural laws—for example, to legalize the killing of the unborn or the elderly, or to outlaw religious practices—is to revert back to “might makes right.” Only God, however, is capable of “making” what is right. That was what our founders said to the king. It is what they say to us, still, today.