Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes
As I was cleaning out the birdcage for my parrot Lucy, I was thinking how animals in cages or zoos have pretty good lives. They never go hungry or thirsty, in fact we probably feed them food that many people in the world wished they had, they are not in danger of predators and likewise of dying from disease. In general these animals have much longer lifespans than their counterparts in the wild. Yet though they may not know it, they are not free.
As humans we would rather be free and suffer from hunger or thirst or disease or enemy attack than live our lives enslaved to another. When we are compelled to do something we often balk. We'd rather do something freely out of love than obligation. This is the message of the Gospel: freedom in Christ means that we are not slaves to anyone or anything but freely serve our God out of love and by extension our brothers and sisters. This was what the pilgrims sought when they left the old world and began the great experiment in America. They specifically sought religious liberty, which gave birth to our general understanding of liberty.
This is why I find it so strange that our country and its leaders are devaluing religious liberty and becoming increasing sheepish about promoting liberty across the world. Behind this is an ever-increasing enslavement to political ideologies that run counter to liberty. Worse still we are ruled more and more by a political class that sees themselves as the elite that know better than people.
On my recent trip to Hong Kong I was able to spend time with the student protestors of the Umbrella Movement who are trying to hold the Chinese government accountable for reneging on their agreement to allow Hong Kong free and open elections. (Before the British and Portuguese returned Hong Kong and Macau to China, China agreed that they would be "separate administrative regions" of China, one country, two systems). It was quite a marvelous sight. Thousands upon thousands of young people camped out along the major streets that run through the city. The students were peaceful and made sure they cleaned up after themselves and I even saw signs they posted saying: "Sorry for the Inconvenience" as the traffic in central Hong Kong was seriously snarled. Most amazingly in one section a large study hall was set up with hundreds of students doing their homework and assignments. (Compare that to our Occupy Wall Street protests).
In speaking with some of the students I was asked why the US support has been so tepid? I told them the people of the US certainly support them but as for our government, well it is obviously more concerned with upsetting China than with supporting liberty. The US government knows too well that China can wreck havoc on our economy since we are so indebted to them. That's what happens when you put human rights and liberty aside for financial security. Still it was obvious to me that the student protestors like so many other peoples in the world look to the US as a beacon of liberty.
Maybe this Thanksgiving we should reflect on what liberty really means and if we still want it? Have we become like animals in a cage or zoo that are content to have someone else care for us in exchange for our freedom? Maybe we have been caged for so long that we don't even know what it looks like to live as free people. Can we recapture the spirit of the pilgrims who began this great experiment in ordered liberty? Will we like them risk our security for liberty or will we trade our liberty for security?
Love, Fr. John B.