The Founding Spirit Zec 9:9-10; Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30. This is Fourth of July weekend when in 1776, our forebearers declared independence from England. Their famed Declaration of Independence has remained a sacred founding document for our country, with its bold words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” No doubt this year’s Fourth of July has a different mood than most years. The threat of the pandemic hangs over plans for picnics and family gatherings. And, at a time of continuing civic strife, our nation is grappling with the unfulfilled promise of our founding spirit that “all are created equal” and that all “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Even as we struggle to be faithful to our ideals, having those ideals spelled out is an important point of reference and a prod to our collective conscience. In many ways, that is also the function of our Scriptures, proclaimed as they are at every Eucharist. As Christians, we believe that the defining values of the Scriptures ultimately are God’s word to us, and therefore much more powerful and compelling than even our most revered civic documents. There is no doubt that those values cited at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence are themselves influenced by the Scriptures, such as the notion that we are all sons and daughters of God and, therefore, endowed with equal rights as human beings. The selections for this Sunday, July 5, were not chosen to coincide with our Independence Day but, as we know, are being proclaimed at every Mass throughout the world. Nevertheless, it struck me how the message of these particular readings is worth pondering on this Fourth of July when our country is doing some soul-searching. For example, the first reading from the prophet Zechariah speaks of the future king or Messiah not as a triumphant warrior or arrogant despot but as a “just savior,” one who is meek and without pretense. Instead of entering Jerusalem on a war chariot, this humble king rides a donkey and brings a message of “peace to the nations,” “banning the warrior’s bow.” No wonder, as we heard on Palm Sunday, Matthew’s Gospel cites this passage in describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The response Psalm 145 also has political tones, extolling God as King. But he is a king who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” He is a Lord who is “good to all and compassionate toward all his works” and a Lord who “lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” Today’s Gospel selection from Matthew has been called the “Johannine meteor” because its tone of intimacy between Jesus and his Father is reminiscent of the style of John’s Gospel. In one of the Gospel’s most memorable and beautiful passages, Jesus declares his bond of love with his Father. Flowing from that bond of love is Jesus’ own compassion for those whose who are burdened and weary: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Today’s second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, pulls together the common theme of today’s readings. Paul urges the Christians at Rome not to live “according to the flesh.” In Paul’s theology, “flesh” means living with a self-centered and limited view of life. He is calling us to live “in the Spirit of Christ” instead. He calls us to strive for those Christ-like and life-giving virtues of genuine humility, compassion, justice and care for the burdens of others. Liberty and independence — our country’s ideals that we celebrate this weekend — are important. Yet, for those of us who believe in the Gospel, the witness of living in the Spirit of Christ will help heal the wounds of our country and truly enable us to live free.