Have you ever struggled with understanding, “What is the proper devotion owed to our country?” Do we love our country as much as the Church? Is God with our country the same way as he is working through the Church? If our country and our Church differ in opinion, whom do we trust, where ultimately does our allegiance lie? On July 4th, 1776 our forefathers wrote a “Declaration of Independence” to Britain. In it they showed great understanding of the proper devotion owed to a nation. Britain was their country, but they understood that Britain was only an earthly power. In this “Declaration” they wrote, “to secure the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” We love our country because for so many years it has secured our rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and today we pray that it will continue to do so. But as our forefathers wrote, our country was instituted by men… it is an earthly power… when it strays from the Word of God, our allegiance must rely with the Church. Our government helps provide for our earthly needs, but it cannot bring salvation. Its wisdom and its deeds are limited to the earthly realm, whereas the Church’s wisdom and deeds bring eternal safety and happiness.
In the Gospel we hear of Jesus being rejected by the people of his hometown. They recognized that he had great wisdom, they recognized that he did mighty works, but they resented him for it and would not honor him with their faith. They could not believe that he was anything more than just another man like them. Even though Jesus said special things and performed special works, they would not recognize him as special. They had grown up with him, from the outside they were the same. But Jesus was different, he was special, what was special about him was inside, he was the Word of God and God’s Spirit dwelled inside him. This is why he had greater wisdom and was able to work mightier deeds.
In our first reading we hear how the Word of God and God’s Spirit may enter a human person. In this reading, we are told that God spoke to Ezekiel. He says, “As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.” And God sent Ezekiel with his Word and his Spirit to people who would not listen. Where the Word of God goes, so does his Spirit. If we listen to the Word of God and receive it, something greater is within us, we have a divine wisdom and are able to work divine deeds. Such a person may look the same as the others, but one is an authentic prophet of the Word, with God’s Spirit dwelling inside him.
Now the Church is like Ezekiel. The Church has heard the Word of God and has been given his Spirit. Jesus is the Word of God, and the Church is his Body, and the Holy Spirit dwells in her. Though the Church may look the same as any other earthly institution from the outside, there is something special insider her. No other institution has been formed by the Word of God, no other institution contains God’s Holy Spirit. Over her history, she has shared with the world much wisdom. She has worked mighty deeds. Universities, hospitals, orphanages, and morality. No other institution in the world has bestowed so much truth and so much charity throughout the world. This is because the Church was formed by the Word of God. Jesus himself instituted her and gives himself to her. He has also sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in her until he comes again. When the Church speaks, she speaks according to the Word of God and through his Spirit. When a nation and the Church differ, our allegiance must be with the Church.
Recently our supreme court legalized same-sex marriage throughout our land. This is not the end of the world, neither is it the end of our nation. It definitely is not the end of our Church. Though we are devoted members of our country, the Church is our salvation, and the Church is right in her teaching that marriage, something which is authored by God, only exists between a man and a woman. When asked about marriage, Jesus said, “male and female God created them.”
As we hear in all our readings today, God respects people’s freedom to reject his Word. Jesus respected the lack of faith of the people of his hometown. Ezekiel was told by God that the people would rebel and resist, and Paul was content to experience hardship, persecution, and insults because he stayed true to the word of God. Like Jesus, Ezekiel, and Paul, we will suffer as we remain true to God’s Word and his Spirit. But in our second reading, Paul says, “God’s grace is sufficient for me.” And his grace, his truth, his love will be sufficient for us as well.
During this difficult time we may be asked to acknowledge the relationships of same-sex couples as marriages in our speech. We may have family members who are in same-sex marriages, is it okay to introduce them as being married? Or if we are at work filling out a form for a same sex couple, is it okay to ask, “How long have you two been married?” It will take some getting used to, but in my opinion it is okay to speak of these unions as marriages. Or of their partners as husbands and wives. It is a way that we show respect for their belief that they are married – a way of respecting their freedom to differ with us. However just as there is a difference between the divine foundation of our Church and the earthly founding of our nation, these other marriages are according to men’s designs and not God’s. Only marriages between a man and a woman does God unite not only in flesh but also in soul. And so with understanding that there is now an earthly union being called “marriage” we may refer to same-sex unions as marriages, as long as we understand that there is a difference. God desires something more for us, something shaped by his Word and enlivened by his Spirit, we must desire for all those who are only married civilly, that type of marriage which has a divine foundation in God.
One thing that we must pray for is the continued freedom of religion within our nation. Already Catholic adoption agencies are not able to function because our nation requires them to place children with same sex couples. The freedom that God grants to people to reject him, the freedom and tolerance we show to our nation even as it disobeys God, we demand an even more basic freedom from our nation, the freedom to live according to the wisdom of God and to perform his works of love.
Our forefathers knew of the great benefit of the Christian faith to our nation. They wrote, “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” They knew that God was the source of the rights we claim. Today our leaders are granting rights which are not authored by God but only by them. Let us pray that our current leaders will not forget the right that God gives us to express our faith, to share his truth, and to show forth God’s love to all in our land.