Fireworks, no matter when or where we see them, always seem to conjure up the 4th of July. They have been part and parcel of the festivities from the very beginning. The tradition of setting off fireworks began in Philadelphia on the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence–July 4,1777. That celebration began and ended with 13 rockets, a salute to the original 13 colonies. And here we are, some 245 years later and, let’s face it, without those palpable bursts of sparkling color in the night sky, the holiday would be, well, a real dud.
This quintessential American holiday celebrating our nation’s birth embodies so much more. It speaks to the blessings and freedoms enjoyed by citizens all across our great nation-–the freedom to take the talents with which we have been blessed and apply them to the profession of our choosing in our pursuit of happiness. It shines a light on the Constitution and the protections it guarantees, enabling a way of life and an economy unprecedented in world history. We are proud to be Americans for all the right reasons.
Needless to say, however, ours is not a perfect nation. There are millions of people in our country who are not enjoying this land of plenty. They are living on the margins, finding it difficult if not impossible to escape the tyranny of poverty that is restricting their freedom and stifling their future. For any number of reasons their economic prison seems to require release from the outside, from those with keys to their cells.
Vincentians are in the freedom business. We bring the keys of friendship and hope right to the doors of the inmates of poverty, opening them to the prayerful and loving spirit of St. Vincent—to the freedom they are meant to enjoy. In last Sunday’s second reading (the 13th Sunday in Ordinary time), St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather serve one another through love. Is this not our Christian calling? Is this not our Vincentian vocation and charism? It’s as if St. Paul knew that the 4th was right around the corner for us, that freedom would again be taking its annual bow in the national psyche.
So here’s a suggestion as we ooh and aah the annual fireworks displays: Note that “The bombs bursting in air…” scatter their bright, colorful light in all directions. May they symbolize the freedoms meant for all those spread across the country and renew our Vincentian commitment to serve one another through love. Enjoy a delightful day of barbecues, parades and family summer fun. Just don’t miss out on those meaningful fireworks. And may God bless America!