By Fr. Mike Boutin -- July 6, 2009
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's." Luke 20:25
Even if you're not the greatest American patriot, you will be moved by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's rendition of "America the Beautiful" accompanied by some stunningly moving images: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzs52OzgWOs
There is no lack of patriotism on July 4th: from purple mountain majesties to fruited plains...from sea to shining sea...there are fireworks, and parades, and flag waving...and so it should be: America is one of the great civilizations of the world. We enjoy a quality of life and spectrum of freedoms that are unrivaled and most of which we take for granted. We don't get up in the morning and think about how blessed we are to be able to go to school if we choose, to decide on a career, to buy a home, or to fall in love.
But even today, in other parts of the world, children go uneducated and undernourished. They die of starvation, unloved and forgotten by the world. For most people in the world, the career they "choose" is to eke out an existence on a small plot of land, or to beg from eco-tourists. Buying a home or renting an apartment is a luxury afforded by the rich, while the poor hope for a strong cardboard box when the monsoons strike, and falling in love is a Hollywood dream in a culture of arranged marriages and extreme poverty.
America is indeed a blessed nation....
But we don't always get it right, do we? America has its problems...like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with far too many of our young people who come home in a box, and whose families are left to put their lives together without them. In spite of the election of the first African American president, racism is still a wound on the soul of our nation. In many towns and cities across America, as the economy continues to spiral out of control, families are in trouble, more and more people are out of work, health care is an inaccessible commodity for many, and the American dream of owning a home is becoming nothing more than a pipedream.
In the midst of our nation's birthday celebration, can we hear the words of Jesus with open hearts? "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's." As citizens of this great country, we do have obligations: to vote, to support our government with our time, talent, and treasure, to work for the common good, and to be leaven in society.
To God, we owe our lives, our hearts, and our minds. The fact that we were born into this country instead of in Darfur is part of the unpredictable nature of the Divine Plan, and so our hearts should be filled with wonder and praise. How should we spend our lives as citizens of the Kingdom? By sharing our time, talent, and treasure with the world, working for the common good, and being leaven in the world. It sounds a lot like the responsibilities of being a national citizen, doesn't it?
The difficult moments come when who we are as a disciple of the Kingdom of God conflicts with what our nation asks us to be or do, or when our faith comes into conflict with our politics.
In those moments, we need to listen to that tiny voice of God in the deep stillness of our hearts, and then we need to pray...