Today is Independence Day in the United States, a day on which many of us will gather with friends or family for a meal and watching fireworks.
I read a reflection by Archbishop Chaput about the celebration of this day that makes an important point. Talking about the blessings God has bestowed on this country he said
We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country…
And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.
We don’t seek religious liberty for its own sake. We seek freedom to practice our faith, to grow in our faith for a purpose: So that we can live for God completely. So that (speaking in Christian terms) we can be Christ to others. Our freedom enables our own conversion, which then allows us to aid others in theirs.
The need to live wholeheartedly for God is also why religious freedom means more than the freedom to safely sit in our places of worship and pray together. It is a freedom to live our lives in all respects consistently with the Gospel. That is both a freedom, and a responsibility. And it is not a small responsibility.