This year, the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time falls on the 4th of July. Living in America, we might expect that the church would reflect this significant secular holiday with the American flag in a prominent place, red, white and blue flowers, and flag buntings hanging throughout the church. While the American flag might be placed in the gathering space or somewhere in the body of the church, beyond that you most likely will see the greens and garden flowers that say “this is summer Ordinary Time.”
National holidays are intended to fill us with civic pride, but when we enter our Catholic churches we are no longer just Americans, we are the people of God. The prominent symbol that declares who is welcome is the cross, with Christ’s arms outstretched to all.
By coincidence the Scripture readings for the 14th Sunday are quite appropriate to hear as Americans on our birthday. In the first reading one can easily substitute “The United States” for “Jerusalem” and understand that despite our failings, God intends for us to be a people who are his servants and find delight in all that he provides.
In the second reading we are reminded that though we are blessed with bountiful lives, our true delight, happiness and peace are found in the cross of Jesus and in our desire to be Christ’s people.
The Gospel tells us that we are sent out to be prophets of peace. What a challenge, especially since our general intercessions will have contained a prayer invoking God’s peace upon all people, and our hands will still recall the touch of another sharing the sign of peace. St. Francis’s Prayer for Peace states “…make me an instrument of your peace.” As we go forth on this 4th of July, where will we begin to be living vessels of Christ’s peace? For some it may begin in the church parking lot, others may renew peace among family members and still others may be peacemakers as they attend a 4th of July parade.
Sometime during the Independence Day weekend, might I suggest that you read the Declaration of Independence. Go beyond those first two paragraphs and read the list of reasons why it was written in the first place. Use it as a prayerful examination of conscience. As a people marked by the cross, and as living words of the Gospel, what parts still call us to action today? May we listen to God’s voice and “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.