We’re hearing about “freedom” a lot in the news lately. Religious freedom. Freedom to bear arms. Freedom of speech…and many more. Everyone wants to have freedom, but sometimes that can be a sadly misconstrued and even misinterpreted term. Usually when we say freedom, we mean that we just want to be left alone to do whatever we please, in whatever way we want to do it.
That’s not the Christian meaning of freedom.
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about freedom:
Freedom is the power to act or not act, and to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good. (1744)
Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. his deliberate acts properly belong to him. (1745)
The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything. (1747)
Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God. Therefore, perfect freedom – what we all long for – is found only in God. We think of freedom as such an adult thing. How many times have we heard our kids say, “When I grow up, I’ll be free to do what I want?” How many times did we ourselves say that as children?
In reality, freedom isn’t an adult thing. Rather, it’s a child’s thing – not as in childish but as in childlike. Real freedom belongs to the children of God, and in order to fully participate in the freedom God gives us, we have to become like little children (see Mt 19:14) who trust in their Father and open their hearts to his plan for them.
In Childlikeness Before God, Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, describes it this way:
…God, out of love and kindness, made from all eternity a great plan for the world and a little plan for me. He, with complete respect for my personal freedom and out of his love for me, guides all things in such a way that this plan for the world and for my life is ultimately fulfilled in all its detail.
Of course, we have the freedom to be very “adult” and make our own choices, including decisions to disobey God’s commandments. However, our decisions have consequences, and in making our choices we must consider them. We can freely choose to disobey God, but then we must be ready to become enslaved by sin and lose the absolute freedom offered us by Eternity with him.
Our Holy Father spoke earlier today about childlike freedom and living like God’s children in his General Audience. My favorite part is, “Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom he gifts us to live in Christ, who is true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! In looking to our heavenly home, we will also have a new light and strength in our commitment and in our daily efforts.”
Pope Francis’ words give me great hope and courage to continue striving to live my life as a child of God – free and trusting in his Divine Providence.
Tell me, what does “freedom” mean to you?
Saint Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!
In the last Catechesis we have focused on the event of the Resurrection of Jesus, in which women have played a special role. Today I would like to reflect on its meaning for salvation. What does the Resurrection mean for our lives? And why, without it, is our faith in vain? Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, just like a house built on foundations: if they give in, the whole house collapses. On the Cross, Jesus offered himself taking sins upon himself our and going down into the abyss of death, and in the Resurrection he defeats them, he removes them and opens up to us the path to be reborn to a new life. St. Peter expresses it briefly at the beginning of his First Letter, as we have heard: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’ (1:3-4).
The Apostle tells us that the Resurrection of Jesus is something new: we are freed from the slavery of sin and become children of God, that we are born to a new life. When does this happen to us? In the Sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times, it was normally received through immersion. Those to be baptized immersed themselves in the large pool within the Baptistery, leaving their clothes, and the bishop or the priest would pour water over their head three times, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the baptized would emerge from the pool and put on a new vestment, a white one: they were born to a new life, immersing themselves in the death and resurrection of Christ. They had become children of God. In the Letter to the Romans Saint Paul writes: ‘For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”‘ (Rom. 8:15). It is the Holy Spirit that we received in baptism that teaches us, leads us to say to God, ‘Father.’ Or rather, Abba Father. This is our God, He is a father to us. The Holy Spirit produces in us this new status as children of God, and this is the greatest gift we receive from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. And God treats us as His children, He understands us, forgives us, embraces us, loves us even when we make mistakes . In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that even though a mother may forget her child, God never, ever forgets us (cf. 49:15). And this is a beautiful thing, beautiful!
However, this filial relationship with God is not like a treasure to be kept in a corner of our lives. It must grow, it must be nourished every day by hearing the Word of God, prayer, participation in the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist and charity. We can live as children! We can live as children! And this is our dignity. So let us behave as true children! This means that each day we must let Christ transform us and make us like Him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and our weaknesses. The temptation to put God to one side, to put ourselves at the center is ever-present and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being children of God. This is why we must have the courage of faith, we must resist being led to the mentality that tells us: ‘There is no need for God, He is not that important for you.’. It is the exact opposite: only by behaving as children of God, without being discouraged by our falls, can we feel loved by Him, our life will be new, inspired by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!
Dear brothers and sisters, we must first must firmly have this hope and we must be visible, clear, brilliant signs of hope in world. The Risen Lord is the hope that never fails, that does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). God’s hope never disappoints! How many times in our life do our hopes vanish, how many times do the expectations that we carry in our heart not come true! The hope of Christians is strong, safe and sound in this land, where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity, because it is founded on God, who is always faithful. We should never forget this; God is always faithful! God is always faithful! Be risen with Christ through Baptism, with the gift of faith, to an imperishable inheritance, leads us to increasingly search for the things of God, to think of Him more, to pray more. Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments; it is about living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ, it is allowing Him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, to free them from the darkness of evil and sin.
Dear brothers and sisters, to those who ask us our reasons for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), let us point to the Risen Christ. Let us point to Him with the proclamation of the Word, but especially with our resurrected life. Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom he gifts us to live in Christ, who is true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! In looking to our heavenly home, we will also have a new light and strength in our commitment and in our daily efforts. It is a precious service that we give to our world, which is often no longer able to lift its gaze upwards, it no longer seems able to lift its gaze towards God.”