Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 28:10-22a; Matthew 9:18-26)

As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, many may find Jacob’s declaration of the place where he slept to be “an abode of God” as characteristic of the United States. Like the Lord’s prediction of Jacob’s descendants, Americans are numerous. Although its extent is easily exaggerated, the United States has been a blessing to Europe during and after World War II and to many developing countries today.

The term “American exceptionalism” has been invented to explain how the United States has reached greatness. Separated from other powers by the vast Atlantic, the country was incubated without the constant threat of war. Equally important, the country did not have a history of feudalism that separated rich from poor as a matter of necessity. Now that slavery and its vestiges have been overcome, it is truly a land of opportunity for everyone. Belief in God and religious freedom has also played a significant part in America’s achievement. The idea of a “Creator” grounds the concept of human rights in the “Declaration of Independence.” More importantly even, Lincoln and other patriots have turned to God as an unerring judge who rewards the nation for its virtue and punishes it for its vice.

However much Americans like to compare its blessings with that of God to Jacob, they should note a critical difference. God’s benediction on Jacob is a solemn oath that He will never retract. Israel, not the country but the people, will endure forever. No such promise has been made to the United States as a country or a people. If the country is to continue to flourish, it must strive to be a blessing for others, to pursue virtue at all costs, and, as much as its freedom of religion will allow, to retain its belief in God.