14th Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12,17-20


On this 4th of July 2004, we are asking anew the question: What does it mean to be an American? The answer to that question is, these days, not altogether simple or clear. Perhaps as never before in our history have Americans been as disliked by others in our world as they are today. Nor have we ever been as critical of ourselves as we have in recent times.


Not too long ago, someone in Pakistan published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to

anyone who killed an American, any American. An Australian dentist wrote the following to let everyone know what an American is, so they could know when they found one.


An American may be Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole, Cree, or one of the many other Nations known as Native Americans. An American may also be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, or Greek. Or perhaps he or she may be

Mexican, South American, African, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab or Pakistani, or Afghan.


An American is Christian, or Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim, or believe in the legends of their own culture. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.


An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government or for God.


An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which

recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.


An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need.


When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country.


As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

Americans welcome the best, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the least.


The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes “your tired, and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed.” These in fact are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001, earning a better life for their families. I’ve been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided the terrorists.


So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the modern world.


But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that Spirit, everywhere, is, to that extent, an American.”


Catholics can be Americans. They do not vote as a voting bloc; they do not like to be told for whom they should vote. But they’re open to talking about the values that should be found in their candidates for political office.


Generally Catholics do not condemn other religions, nor do they hate people of other faiths. Catholics belong to a Church that is worldwide, universal, and found in every nation in the world. Catholics are loyal Americans, and loyal Americans can be Catholics. Our bishops do not seek to drive a wedge between these two citizenships. Others have tried, and are trying to do so even now, but our Holy Father the pope and the bishops of the Church seek to unify, not divide. They have made it perfectly plain for all to see that they do not want the reception of Holy Communion to be a moment of confrontation, conflict and division.


We Americans, and Catholics who are Americans, hold to the self-evident truth that our rights, both as human beings and as citizens, are endowed upon us by God — not by any king, president, congress, court or church. All of those institutions are charged by God to serve us, and to serve us in God’s presence, power and love. It is God who created us, gave us life, and endowed us with rights, not our government or its courts. Human life comes from God, returns to God and is subject to God. For Congress or our courts to decree otherwise is to usurp the prerogatives of God.


It’s July 4th. We should be thinking and talking about who we are, what we believe, and what we stand for. And while it is important for us to be identified and seen as Americans and as Catholics, the greatest citizenship we have and the best identity we should present to others is that of being like Christ. The picture of our selves on our passport into eternity ought to be one in which people can see the face of Christ in our face. We should love God our Father as Christ does, we should love those around us as He does, and in all things we should be decent, kind, noble, truthful, compassionate, caring, just, and good. Whatsoever we do, people ought to feel they have been touched by goodness and God’s love.


What greater identity could we possibly have?

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”