Today we rightfully give thanks for the blessings of freedom we enjoy in this country. Our scripture readings today also call us to give thanks for an even greater freedom, the freedom that only God can give. What is the source of this freedom? Isaiah reminds the Israelites that as bad as things might seem in exile, they have cause for hope. One day they will return to Jerusalem. Jesus teaches the apostles in the Gospel that if they have him, they needn’t fear that anything will be lacking. There is a great freedom in knowing that God is in control. Yet so many of us rarely experience this kind of freedom. What gets in the way? In a word…fear.
We’re afraid of so many things. We’re afraid of loosing our job, afraid we won’t find a job, afraid our kids will lose the faith, afraid our health will fail and list goes on and on. Ultimately, we’re afraid that we will die. In little ways and big ways we are confronted with death every day. If we live in fear of dying, we are not truly free to live.
St. Paul gives us the answer to this problem in our second reading. He talks of how we should boast in the cross of Jesus. The cross seemed like the ultimate defeat and yet was turned into the symbol of Jesus’ triumph over death. The cross reminds us that death is not the end and that Jesus has conquered death. We need no longer fear death.Boasting in the cross is now our ticket to true freedom. If we have nothing to fear from death then we need not be afraid to encounter the cross in our life. To live in the knowledge of the resurrection gives us a freedom the world can never give.
Today we are especially thankful for the freedom we have in this country and we know that it was bought at a great price. Men and women throughout history have given their lives that we might live free. Even greater though is the freedom in God that points beyond this world. This freedom too was bought at a great price. Jesus gave his life on the cross that each of us might live in freedom, freedom from sin and death. This is a victory we celebrate every Sunday. Each week we can rightfully celebrate the Lord’s day knowing that it is indeed our Independence Day.