Every Thanksgiving, our family, like many, has a tradition of going around the table and ‘encouraging’ members of the family to speak about what they are grateful for. This year, our family had a consistent theme of gratitude for the freedoms we have in this country, which we so often take for granted, and yet are so precious to us. This of course leads us to pause and think of other people, in other countries, who are not so fortunate, and for me it brought to mind some of my own experiences.
Two years ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Hong Kong on business. As a Catholic, I sought out a church where I had the privilege of attending Mass in a foreign country. It was a beautiful service, universally the same and yet unique. The church was adjacent to a Catholic school and the Mass was attended by many of the students in their uniforms, and at the time I could not help but be amazed at the universality of our faith in such a faraway land. I reveled in the thought of these students being brought up in the Catholic faith, and receiving an education second to none.
A mere two years later, the people of Hong Kong are fighting for their rights — the foremost of which is to worship God as they choose. Towering over their shoulders, waiting to take away that most precious freedom — the freedom from which all other freedoms arise, is the totalitarian, communist regime of China. China does not allow its own people to freely practice their faith. They force priests and churches to register with the government so they can be monitored. Christians and people of all faiths are persecuted and jailed for their faith. China’s leader has installed himself as a dictator for life, and demands obeisance from the people, and to an evil ideology that has taken millions of lives over the past century, and taken the souls of countless millions more. This is such a stark contrast to the experience that we have as Americans, where every man and woman are free to make their own choices, and follow their own path. As a Catholic, I strongly believe (and know deep in my heart) that God wants us to be free. He does not demand our obedience, but instead he has created a world where we are meant to be free to seek the truth and to choose him (or not) as we see fit.
Freedom is written into the DNA of every human being. In America, we have codified that in our Declaration of Independence — acknowledging that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — but at the core of these rights is the right to the belief that there is a Creator — a Creator who has made us in his image and given us these freedoms, which no mere mortal (or group of mortals in the form of a government) can take away. Because these freedoms are in fact part of our DNA, we should expect them and we should demand them — for ourselves and for all of mankind. Those who stand with Hong Kong and declare their support for the protestors are standing for the right to be human. To deny this is to defend evil.
So while we should expect and demand to be free, we should never take our freedoms for granted, but always be vigilant, and eternally grateful for our freedom, for being Americans, and for being created in the image of a loving God, who also expects us to be free.