Saturday, June 26, 2010

Christian Freedom

(13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery,” writes St. Paul in the second reading today. The spiritual freedom we have in Christ is worth our reflection from time to time. On the one hand, freedom is one of the great gifts that we have in Christ, and one of the most important ways we recover—in Christ—the image and likeness of God in which we were created, and thus find our happiness and fulfillment. God, after all, is infinitely free, and by being free ourselves we imitate Him and share in His freedom. That’s why human beings always strive for freedom and why it makes us happy, because our hearts and minds are always reaching out for the ultimate, divine Love and Freedom of God. On the other hand, we always have to be on guard against the shallow and erroneous understandings of freedom that come from the world and from that mystery of human selfishness and frustration that Paul calls “the flesh.”

Some people think freedom is just being able to do whatever we please. Thomas Merton has a great line on this: “The mere ability to choose between good and evil is the lowest limit of freedom, and the only thing that is free about it is the fact that we can still choose good.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, 27) Evil and sin make us unhappy by definition. So when I sin by deliberately choosing the bad, thereby making myself miserable—as well as all those who, by their immense charity, put up with me—I am exercising my unfreedom and my slavery to sin. The metaphor of exercise is pertinent, too, because our choices develop our habits and our habits determine what sort of person we become, whether better or worse each day. This is why it’s hard for the wisdom of this world to accept that real freedom is the ability to choose the good, not the false liberty of being able to do whatever we think we want.

This is also why, as St. Paul points out, spiritual freedom and love of neighbor go together. Forgetting about all of the nonsense fed to us by romantic comedies and the like, love is simply to desire the best for another, and to organize our behavior out of that desire. Love means making our life into a right effort for the good and flourishing of the people and earth around us. So, by loving our neighbor, we are seeking the good, and by learning to seek the good consistently we become free and happy. All of this we do in Christ; in fact, this is the very renovation of our humanity that we know as Christ’s Resurrection.


4narnia said...

this is a really nice homily, Fr. C! i particularly like the last paragraph where you say that "love is simply to desire the best for another and to organize our behavior out of that desire." it is both a difficult and easy thing to do this. if we try to remember that God desires the best for us, then we should naturally desire the best for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. PAX! ~tara t~

Greg said...

Thoughtful homily. You point out so wisely that our freedom cannot come at the expense of another, for when we harm another we are no longer free but rather chained by the bonds of sin. Good way to analyze the concept so that we might apply the teaching.