Tomorrow, we celebrate the 246th birthday of America. On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the American Declaration of Independence. This day is important for America not only because it is our birthday, but more because we celebrate the birth of a concept – that all men and women are created equal, that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the other members of the Continental Congress developed these concepts for the Preamble of the Constitution – from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and a book containing the Democratic teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine (found today in the Library of Congress).

On this holiday weekend, as we ponder the freedom and success we enjoy in America, we know that the secret of America’s success is that freedom still demands a willingness of individuals to make a sacrifice for it – as our service men and women are doing in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and all the other problem areas of our world.

The Gospel today, tells us that Jesus sent 72 of His Disciples to announce that the reign of God was at hand. They took nothing; no walking staff, no traveling bag, no sandals. There were to be no distractions. They had one vision, one goal, one focus – to preach and to demonstrate by their lives that the “Reign of God” had come.

The 72 disciples were sent into the world with a new and definite set of values, which they had learned from Jesus Himself. Jesus did not come to this world to obtain for the Jewish people, for America, or for any people, the physical and governmental freedoms they might have been praying for. Nor did He come to entertain or dazzle us with a message that has no challenge or content.

Rather, Jesus came to call us to conversion, to challenge us to reform our lives, forgive our enemies, help the poor, support the widows and orphans, give food to the hungry, and cloth to the naked.

In the Gospel today, Jesus challenges us as He challenged His 72 Disciples, to make a sacrifice and freely choose to follow Him as a disciple – sent to preach the presence of the reign of God to a world that has been corrupted by secularism, greed, and in many instances corrupt politicians and governments. We are sent as “lambs in the midst of wolves” to proclaim the “Reign of God” by the way we live. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading: “and the way we make decisions. May we never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If America is to continue on her journey of greatness, and if each one of us lives – up to our call to discipleship, then all of us who are America, must accept all of the moral values and teachings of Jesus Christ rather than the false, artificial values of a violent and godless society.

As the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers have been watered-down to suit political and cultural demands, the teachings of Jesus – preserved and guarded by the Church have been watered – down –looking for short – cuts and detours around living the full and complete life which Jesus has given to His Church. Jesus not only has the solutions to our personal problems, but He also has the solution to our National problems; in fact, He is the solution!

The world will never hear the message of Jesus if only the seventy – two preach it; or if only the Pope, bishops, priests, deacons, and religious proclaim it. The Lord appoints all of us to be heralds of His Saving Gospel. Each of us has been called and sent into our part of the world to proclaim the presence of the Reign of God. We do that by living what we profess to believe.

As we celebrate America’s birthday this weekend, may each of us be more committed to making America great by living the moral and ethical values of Jesus – the values upon which our country was founded. May God bless America, and may He bless and strengthen His Holy Catholic Church.