Peace and Good!
Today in the United States what we celebrate officially is our independence from England. However, we also use this day to mark our values, especially freedom, liberty, justice for all. It’s good to reflect on these things in our relationship with God as well as with others.
In regard to God, we can never be independent. Our very existence depends on God, so being independent would mean not existing, certainly not a desirable end. Scripture tells us, too, that we may never be independent of God’s love: God is love, John says. So the Lord does not give us the gift of independence. However, He does give us the gift of freedom. We can choose freely to be what we are made to be. We can choose freely to accept joyfully the love of God. Our faith tells us that such freedom is at the basis of human life, and of human dignity.
This dignity is why, in regard to other people, we speak of independence and dependence. Here, too, there is no such thing as absolute independence from others. In life in so many ways we depend on others, they depend on us. That’s part of how God made us.
However, we do need a certain amount of independence from others, if we are to be open to choose to be what God has made us to be. Others can help us discern God’s will, but no human being can tell us absolutely who we are. To listen to God we have to have a certain independence from others.
St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a saint celebrated today, is a good example of this. She was a queen, and accepted that role. However, she interpreted that role independently, in freedom. Following the example of her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, she thought that a queen ought to reach out and help the poor, even to the point of serving them at table and washing their feet. People at court told her this was no way for a queen to act and that she should stop, but she was independent of their opinion, in her desire to be free to do what God called her to do.
We find this in the life of St. Francis. He was very obedient, open to listening to God’s will through the Church and his brothers. On the other hand, he was independent in seeking to live his vocation within the Church, rejecting the calls of others who told him he should abandon his project and simply fit into the established system of religious life. His genius was to balance dependence and independence. He was able to do this, I think, because he was open to learning true freedom, freedom to be loved by God and become that love in the world.
Happy Independence Day! God bless America, and every nation and people in the world!