Independence Day Reflection: Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness
True liberty is not essentially constituted in freedom from oppressive restrictions imposed on one's way of life by an unjust authority, but rather is found in the eternal possession of God's love.
Man's natural desire for happiness is of "divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it" (CCC 1718). The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence echos that desire: "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."
"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."
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those words, written over two centuries ago, still resonate in the depths of our hearts, not simply because they are lofty ideals for which we find ourselves compelled to strive, but because they reflect an aspect of man's irrepressible desire to attain and enjoy human fulfillment. They speak not only of the American experiment particularly, but echo the goals of human experience generally. With those words we are reminded of the specific purpose for which we are created and the particular end toward which we are directed; on hearing them, we are moved to realize that to be human, bestowed as we are with the gift of life and dignity, created in God's image and likeness, is truly spectacular.
Given the many alarming elements present in today's America which seek to deal a fatal blow to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whether through direct attacks, covert manipulation of public opinion, or through the dissemination and application of counterfeit notions of human freedom, it is easy to fall into despair. That our nation is in peril is not an exaggeration in the least. In the first place, this dire predicament is the effect of secularism's insistence on the detachment of human rights from the moral law. The American crisis is a moral crisis.
As Christians we are called to analyze culture, and, aided by the Spirit, heal, elevate and purify those elements within it which run contrary to the Gospel. Given how far adrift America is, the restoration of her proper course is a daunting task. But regardless of the strength, duration and outcome of the storm in which we are immersed, as Christians, as men and women informed by the light of faith, we will not lose hope. As St. Teresa of Avila said, God alone suffices. Our hope does not rest on the passing form of this world (1 Cor. 7:31), but on the promises of Christ and the glorious future that awaits us, for "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9).
We are called to become, by faith in Christ, members of the divine family and thus enter into the invisible and other-worldly (Jn 18:36) fellowship of the kingdom of God. Jesus, as the door to eternal life (Jn 10:7-9), has opened the way to that divine kingdom. Life in Christ is a participation in God's own life and is therefore a substantially and qualitatively new way of living. Speaking of his salvific mission for humankind, Jesus said: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
Abundant life! While Thomas Jefferson wrote of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the context of throwing off a despotic British government in favor of an independent nation, Christ speaks of eternal realities which travel inconceivably beyond the temporal, and which will continue with an unending permanency guaranteed by God himself. We are brought forth from nothingness to life by Christ, sustained by Christ, and gifted with the potential to enjoy everlasting, divinely infused supernatural bliss by Christ's redemptive sacrifice on the cross. So long as we remain in Christ, we no longer simply pursue happiness, but rather it becomes an inalienable and eternal reality -- and this wondrous state of existence is available as God's gift to us here, right now, although its fullest dimension is attained only in the next life.
St. Paul wrote that "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Since the glorious state of our future as Christians far exceeds our understanding, there is little that can be definitively said about what awaits those who love God. The temptation, however, is to project our experience of the often meager happiness tasted here through contact with created objects onto the eternal "now" of heaven. That is, since the normal experience of earthly happiness is often so fleeting and unsatisfying, we tend to view the happiness of heaven through an unsatisfactory, temporal lens. Given that, we might not even be too sure we want to live forever!
Most of us have not the slightest idea of what supernaturally infused bliss is. What is ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More U.S. News
- Homeless man whose face was eaten away in cannibal attack recovering
- Priests for Life: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Most Significant Legislative Step Forward
- In the Wake of the Moore Tornado: What Can we Learn from the Disaster?
- US Supreme Court Accepts Religion Case: Will Legislative Prayer Survive Religious Censorship?
- Largest Burmese Python caught in Miami-Dade County
- Court sides with Obama, Osama death photos can remain secret - for your own good
- Two Oklahoma men killed in tornadoes; Kansas, Iowa batten down for severe weather
- Supreme Court to decide if prayer before town meeting is permissible
- All survive terrifying plane 'belly landing' in Newark
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?