Liberated from the Slavery of Sin
Jesus sets us free from the power of sin and death. True freedom, then, resides in our ability to choose God, which means to love. And the more we love, the more we grow in freedom.
A deep misunderstanding about the meaning of freedom has created misery in our culture today. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. That's a false freedom. Freedom is the capacity to act in accordance with the truth - the truth which is revealed to us by God in nature and by divine revelation.
With freedom comes responsibility - the responsibility to use our freedom to love God and to love our neighbors as He has loved us. And the more we love, the more we grow in freedom.
When we choose to live how God intended us to live - by self-discipline, responsibility, and care for others - then we truly become free.
Full Audio Transcript
00:01 Well, this week, as we know, we're celebrating Independence Day July 4th, and you know, fireworks, barbecues, however we're getting, we're getting together with family or neighbors or friends. Uh, having lived abroad for so long, this was kind of a special celebration for myself usually wherever when I was in Italy, which find some enclave of Americans that we would get together because believe it or not, the rest of the world that doesn't really care about July 4th. But when we think about celebrating our independence and the freedom that that represents, she draws to this, this line from Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians: For freedom Christ has set us free. For freedom Christ has set us free. These words from the apostle to the gentiles allow us to focus on one of the important questions of life and to listen to the sacred word. Look to what the Lord wants to tell us about freedom. What is freedom? What is its purpose? How do we become free? How do we grow in freedom?
01:16 You know, all that the Lord Jesus has done for us is to set us free. Free from the power of sin and the death to which sin leads. But that liberation by Christ has a purpose. Christ has set us free for freedom. And the goal of our freedom is love. The fact, the fact that the Lord has made us rational, that he gave us an intellect to know and a will to choose means that we are capable of love. And that is where our freedom resides in our ability to know and to choose and to love. And in order to fulfill our vocation, to love God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength, and to love others as Christ has loved us, we must be free because we can't love out of compulsion.
02:13 And so with freedom comes responsibility, the responsibility to use our freedom to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as he has loved us. And the more we do that, the more we grow in freedom. On the other hand, we can also misuse our freedom to enslave ourselves. For example, by becoming addicted to alcohol or pornography or by having to get our own way all the time. Christ has opened up the prison cell and let us into the light, but now we need to use the get that great gift of freedom can to continue to follow him more and more into the light rather than return to the self-imposed darkness, the servitude of sin and ego-centrism. I know that's just a fancy word for selfishness.
03:11 And so responsible freedom means something. How do we become free? We become free by what our Lord told us in the gospel of Saint John. If you keep my word, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
03:33 So to be free, if I am going to be free, I have to know and to live the truth about the world, about God, about who we are, to live according to the truth, the truth about right and wrong, the truth about good and evil. The truth about who we are made in the image and likeness of God. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. It's not the power to pretend that we're God, determining what is good and evil, even deciding over life and death. That's a false freedom. Actually, it's a demonic use of freedom.
04:23 Freedom rather is the capacity to act in accordance with the truth. The truth, as it is revealed to us in nature. We call that the natural law or revealed in divine revelation. We call that the revealed law. And sometimes we we get, we have this false notion that that law and freedom are somehow opposed to each other. That law is somehow a constraint upon freedom. But that's not true, if we understand freedom as coming from the truth, right? The freedom to act according to the way things are. So law simply is a specification of the truth, how the truth should shape my actions and my moral life. In other words, it's rather immature and irresponsible to think that I must be free from God's law to be free. We know who that is, that's Satan. To choose eternally to be free from God's law. God's law is not an obstacle to freedom, but the pathway of freedom.
05:35 His Law protects and fosters freedom by making sure that we are living according to the truth. And it's the ability to live with virtue, with self mastery that allows us to become the men and women God created us, created us to be as image as images and likenesses of him who is both truth and love. We cannot love without the truth. We cannot be free without the truth and the whole point of all of the Church's teaching that comes to us from Jesus, from the doctrine of the trinity all the way down to the most specific teachings about human sexuality, about social doctrine, about, about liturgical worship. All is given to us to make us free. The truth liberates us from the slavery to sin and our own egos.
06:34 And Saint Paul goes on to tell us in this passage from Galatians that the fundamental choice we have to make in life, the litmus test of whether we will strengthen and expand our freedom or diminish and lose it is dependent on whether we choose to live by the Holy Spirit. In His grace or live according to what he calls the flesh, which means living dominated by rather than controlling our lower instincts. The more we choose to live by God and the Holy Spirit and his grace, by the truth that he has shown us, by self-discipline and responsibility and care for others, the more free we will become. If we want to be free, we'll be responsible and embrace our responsibilities.
07:29 You know, there's a, there's a clinical psychologist out right now who's very, very popular. It's got tons of podcasts, a very in a very sought after speaker. You can go on youtube and just see interview after interview with him. His name is Dr. Jordan Peterson and, uh, he's, he's not really a believer, uh, but a lot of what he says is very consonant with, with what we believe as Christians. But what he's noticing his clinical practice is this whole business in our culture of not being responsible of not living up to commitments and having this sense of entitlement in life. You know, what it's done, it's made people miserable and slaves and unable to be able to expand and to work in the world. And so what his part of what his message is and the fact that if we want to be free, we'll be responsible. We'll embrace our responsibilities, we'll commit ourselves to things. And it's through that, that we find purpose and meaning and how much more so when the truth that is being given to us is from God himself and our vocations to love and to live in this world.
08:42 So the more we we live in accordance with the truth and our responsibilities, the freer we become, the more we abuse our freedom and live apart from God and his truth and responsibilities, the more we will voluntarily squander our freedom and become slaves. And so unfortunately there's many in our culture who are confused about this. We see, we see those who prefer to live in kind of a make-believe unreality no matter what. For example, biology or DNA says in which no one's feelings are hurt rather than to help people live according to the truth of things.
09:26 As difficult as that might be. Is it in a, in a, in a moment of life, what some fail to see is that behavior contrary to the truth about things in one way or another, enslaves them and makes them miserable rather than liberate them and make them happy. So Saint Paul is teaching us that the purpose of our freedom is not to enable self-indulgence self-definition in life according to the flesh, but rather for love and love's responsibility to live in accordance with the truth that Christ has revealed to us.
10:07 This is the gospel that we are to live and proclaim. Enjoy. The Gospel that sets people free and leads them to true happiness. And the choice between living according to the holy spirit or living according to the flesh is what the dramatic gospel scene is all about. It throws into relief what freedom is and the challenge and challenges us to see if we are truly being led by the spirit. We have examples of about the use of freedom. These these people who were called by Jesus and who wished to follow him, but who in that encounter assert their own willfulness in it and miss the opportunity and notice in these cases it wasn't an outright sin that was the problem, but good things that they had made into idols that prevented them from following the one true God. It was the the disorder of priorities that kept them from following God.
11:14 The first person told Jesus, I will follow you with wherever you go. Jesus wanted to be clear about the cost of discipleship. Foxes have dens, birds of the sky have nest, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus was telling him that anyone who decides to follow him needs to know that it's not going to be a comfortable life, that the Christian life is not an easy, comfortable life, but it's going to life of the joy of self, self sacrificial love and the embracing of crosses and we don't know what decision that man made, but the context implies that he might've preferred to have a pillow then choose to follow a pillowless Redeemer.
12:00 Next, Jesus explicitly, explicitly calls a man to follow him. But that person said, let me go first and bury my father. Now note that there is no indication that his father was dead or even about to die. It's likely that this man was the first born son who in Jewish culture would be the one responsible for caring for his father in old age. So one way to understand that is that is his response is, you know, Jesus, my father is more important right now. I'll come and follow you later. Maybe in 10 or 20 or 30 years when my father's no longer here. And our Lord's reply is very direct and very clear. Let the dead bury the dead. An indication that anyone who does not have God first in his or her life is to some degree already dead.
12:55 And to have life, we need to make the choice to follow him who is the way and the truth and the life. Jesus wasn't telling this man to break the fourth commandment to honor his father and mother, but rather to keep the first commandment, to love God above every other love in order to better keep the fourth.
13:21 The third person told the Lord that he would follow him, but he first wanted to say goodbye to everyone, certainly not evil. We just heard about it with the Prophet Elisha in the first reading, to want to say farewell to friends, friends and family, but in this particular case, the man was placing human considerations before that immediate response to following the Lord, failing to recognize the unbelievable privilege of that moment of the invitation that he had just received, and that's why Jesus gave him and us a crucially important principle. No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.
14:07 Jesus was calling him and us to set our hand to the plow and to look at what we are gaining rather than what we are giving up to follow. He's calling all of us an appeal to our freedom to use our freedom to make him the true priority of our life. And so let's put our hands to the plow and follow Jesus without looking back, committing ourselves to give him more time in prayer more than we devote to various diversions.
14:46 By going to Mass every single Sunday and holy day and even arriving early to prepare ourselves spiritually. You know, that's kind of a good example of that. Think about worshiping the Lord at Mass that often can be a nice litmus test of our priorities because there's lots of things that are competing for our time and attention. And I do hear that from people occasionally. It's like, where were you last week? Oh, it was busy. I wonder what could be more important than worshiping God and fulfilling that first commandment? Right? But all of those pressures on us are a challenge about where the priorities are and that if we make the Lord first, he will give us the grace to follow and, and, and to follow him with joy.
15:36 Another way of putting our hands to the plow and not looking, looking back, forgiving those who have hurt us without looking to see if they have, if they have forgiven first, by caring for those in need, without looking to see if anyone notices by promoting and defending the truth, without looking to see if it meets with other people's approval. In short, to put our hands to the plow and follow Christ and uniting our whole life with him without looking back to our old way of doing things, without looking back to the yoke of slavery. And in that we can continue to work to making our parish a Eucharistic parish, where Jesus Christ truly present in the blessed sacrament is the center and the goal and the point of reference for everything we say and do and are, and so that our parish will never cease to be a school of freedom to help everyone to learn the purpose of freedom to following the Lord and expanding that freedom with his help.