The True Meaning of Freedom

Too often in our society, freedom is taken to mean the ability to do whatever we want. But if we follow that illusion, we end up being unhappy.

In reality, freedom isn’t about being free from all constraints; rather, freedom is about being free for something, the ability to choose the good.

God gave us the gift of free will to choose Him and to live in accordance with His will for us. Because He created us, He knows what is best for us, what behavior contributes to our human flourishing and happiness.

This moral law is encoded within our very being as human persons. Whenever we flout the moral law in the name of “freedom,” we go against the truth of God’s design for us and actually deliver ourselves up to slavery to sin.

But Jesus liberates us from bondage to sin, gives us true freedom, and empowers us to live in His friendship. As disciples, we are called to follow Jesus in freely giving ourselves for the good of others.

St John Paul II explains this beautifully in Veritatis Splendor: “Human freedom…is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly” (86).

Our “freedom of conscience is never freedom ‘from’ the truth but always and only freedom ‘in’ the truth” (64).

Jesus is “the living, personal summation of perfect freedom in total obedience to the will of God.” Through contemplation of Jesus on the Cross, we grasp “the full meaning of freedom: the gift of self in service to God and one’s brethren” (87).

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Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30

Take Jesus’ yoke upon you and find rest

Jesus presents us with paradoxes in Sunday’s Gospel. Revelation comes to the “little ones,” not to those who deem themselves wise, and by taking the Lord’s yoke upon us, we actually find true rest in Him.

These statements are integrally related: to accept the Kingdom of God, we must have a “humble and trusting heart” (Catechism paragraphs 544, 2785).

This truth contradicts our contemporary culture, which promotes pride of mind and heart. The culture often denies objective standards of morality and claims that we can fashion individual ideas of right and wrong to suit ourselves.

As St. John Paul II has observed, such moral relativism is essentially “a lack of trust in the wisdom of God, Who guides man with the moral law” (The Splendor of Truth 84).

“God, Who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of His very love,” He teaches us what is good by giving us the commandments (35).

We are authentically free, not when we try to deny the truth of God’s word, but when we embrace God’s will and choose the good (35, 84).

Jesus Himself shows us the way: “The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness” (Catechism paragraph 459). “His exclamation, ‘Yes, Father!’ expresses the depth of His heart…this loving adherence of His human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father” (2603).

Question for reflection: When have I found peace in surrendering to the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Gospel – John 10:1-10

Good Shepherd Sunday

While the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is comforting, the Lord cautions us that the shepherd is not the only one who calls to the sheep – strangers, thieves, and robbers likewise call out to us, seeking to lure us away to our own harm.

How well do we recognize these voices, and distinguish them from the authentic voice of the Lord?

St. John Paul II has exhorted us to form our consciences according to the Lord’s truth, not according to the false ways of our contemporary culture:

Why do so many acquiesce in attitudes and behavior which offend human dignity and disfigure the image of God in us? …Is it because conscience itself is losing the ability to distinguish good from evil?

In a culture which holds that no universally valid truths are possible, nothing is absolute…Good comes to mean what is pleasing or useful at a particular moment. Evil means what contradicts our subjective wishes…

Do not give in to this widespread false morality…

Only by listening to the voice of God in your most intimate being, and by acting in accordance with its directions, will you reach the freedom you yearn for…

A re-birth of conscience must come from two sources: first, the effort to know objective truth with certainty, including the truth about God; and secondly, the light of faith in Jesus Christ, who alone has the words of Life…

Against all the forces of death, in spite of all the false teachers, Jesus Christ continues to offer humanity the only true and realistic hope. He is the world’s true Shepherd.

Address during Prayer Vigil, August 14, 1993.

Question for reflection: What “other voices” try to pull me away from the Lord’s fold?