Having celebrated the 4th of July, that national holiday is a good reason to pause and consider what freedom is meant to be used for in the mind of the church. From the Catholic encyclopedia (Nelson publisher 1987 page 228) we are reminded “there are three aspects of freedom of beings, all having negative and positive concepts: (1) the ‘freedom from’ something, as opposed to enslavement; (2) moral freedom, the freedom of the will, or not being forced to act in a certain way; (3) the transcendental freedom that is the fundamental propriety of man.” …..In the Christian view of freedom, freedom lacking a religious dimension, freedom that does not have grace and make use of it, is fallen freedom. Man must be free if he is to rise again in glory, to take up God’s offer obtained through Christ and continuously proffered by the Church, for we are healed through Christ and are called to be the “children of God.”
That sounds different from what the world says freedom is. The world or society both have a very limited sense of freedom. It is reduced to only making decisions. That sense of freedom remains on the level of a consumer and emotions that can so rapidly change. That type of freedom puts the individual at the center. True freedom is choosing the Good. What is true and even necessary especially when it is not something we like. Parents know that time and again. Spouses often put the other first. Our military personnel have done that over the years.
Of course that is not easy and so the need for grace. Grace also to truly see what is in front of us. To really understand what it is that we are deciding on for whose benefit. That we are freely striving to be children of God. That the glory of God is part of why we are deciding.
Of course many decisions we make are not earth shattering yet to intentionally make them is acting in true freedom. Often we are on autopilot and act out of routine. Being free calls us to enter every situation fully aware of what and why we are doing it. We are shaped by the decisions we make. They all add up over time. They can shape our character and who we become.
God has given us this great gift of freedom so to act as He acts. As a nation the fight for political freedom began in 1776, 247 years ago. Whether politically or morally, there is always a fight to use freedom well, for God’s greater glory as human beings. To grasp more fully what this gift means in our lives calls for reflection and prayer. Are there areas that we are not free? That addictions and patterns of behavior have taken our human freedom away? Am I bringing God’s grace into the decisions that I am making? Praying about decisions seems simple enough but why wait until that is the last option; start with prayer before any decision.
This past 4th of July I freely agreed with Bishop Callahan and came to St. Peter and St. Casimir parishes. There can be many different pieces that go into our freedom and it is not always easy or without cost. Yet God freely loves us and freely forgives us. In those areas may we be as free as God to do the same.