Father Donald Senior, CP

July 3: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A new creation

Is 66:10-14; Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12, 17-20

This Sunday falls on the eve of the Fourth of July and what for most people is a treasured long weekend. A lot of families will gather for picnics and summer activities. And for the first time since the pandemic, Navy Pier in Chicago will once again be the site of a grand fireworks display.

But all of us know that this is a troubled time for our country and our world. The fireworks explosions will remind us of the spate of shootings that have plagued our city as well as cities and towns throughout America and have led to a bitter debate about the role of guns and gun violence in our country. And all of us watch in horror the terrible violence of warfare in Ukraine, wanton shelling relentlessly destroying people and their homes. Not to mention the anxiety so many feel these days about rising inflation and its impact on family budgets.

How to balance love of our great country with so many problems roiling our society?  I thought about this when reflecting on the readings for this Sunday. The Bible is neither Pollyannaish nor sentimental. The long history of Israel reflected in the Old Testament was a mix of beauty and suffering. The New Testament writings we hear this Sunday have the same realistic mix.

The reading from the prophet Isaiah, an inhabitant of Jerusalem, bursts out in joy over the deliverance of this city so beloved to the people of Israel. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her, exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her!”  The Lord sends “prosperity over Jerusalem like a river”!

The responsorial Psalm 66 spreads the joy “to all the earth,” a hymn of joy and thanksgiving for the beauty of the world created by God. “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy. Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. … Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name! …  Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.”

Our Scriptures recognize the beauty of creation and the gift of human freedom, motifs that underly our celebration of July Fourth. Who can doubt that our country is blessed with such beauty “from sea to shining sea?”  And, compared to many nations that endure constant threat and oppression from their own governments, we do have the gift of freedom.

But appreciation of God’s gifts to our country should not blind us to our failings and the threats we face. The reading from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians holds both sets of realities together, aware of the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion, a sign of humanity’s cruelty, but turned by Jesus into an act of love overcoming the power of death. Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we are, Paul declares, a “new creation.” The beauty and freedom we enjoy are a gift of God to us.

The Gospel has the last word. In Luke’s account, Jesus calls 72 disciples and sends them out into the world to proclaim the power and beauty of God’s kingdom and to heal the sick. But here again, there is sober reality: “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” They will meet opposition and indifference in the course of their mission. They should travel light and be alert.

So here is a biblical warrant for our Fourth of July celebration. Rejoice in the blessings of our country, but not blindly or arrogantly. Be aware of our sins and work in an open-eyed manner to teach and to heal as Jesus commands us.

The anthem that will be sung more than once this weekend catches this biblical mood: “God bless America, land that I love / Stand beside her and guide her / Through the night with the light from above.”


  • scripture