Freedom. It’s something with a very positive connotation in our culture today, because of the inherent human desire for it and because of how much our nation was built upon it. But while freedom is so important to every human being and such an integral part of the human soul, the concept of freedom seems to have a wide variety of understandings. To many, it is simply the idea of being able to do whatever we want whenever we want and for whatever end we so desire. The Church, however, knows better.
In the Catechism, the Church tells us,
Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility…Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”
In the world around us, we see signs of people becoming so obsessed with pleasure and exercising their “freedom” that they actually achieve the reverse, becoming enslaved to whatever delivers that pleasure they so earnestly seek. Whether it’s something of a graver nature, like premarital sex, pornography, drugs, or alcohol, or something that can be good in temperate amounts, like social media, video games, TV and movies, or even sports. It’s a disease that we all suffer from, and have suffered from since the fall of man, but one of which we each as individuals can be slowly cured.
One way to help cure ourselves of any spiritual captivity is to do what the Church calls us to do for 40 days every year. Fast. Give up that thing or something closely related that is keeping you from fully embracing the life God has created for you. Whether we give it up for just a day a week, or go on an intense 90 day spiritual conditioning bootcamp like the Exodus 90 Program, it will heal us in a way we didn’t think possible.
What the Church, and ultimately Jesus, calls us to seek is authentic freedom. Authentic freedom is the choosing of good over evil, keeping us from falling into “the slavery of sin.” By choosing to pursue that kind of freedom, we live our life as it was created to be lived, enriching it with virtues and relationships of mutual love and sacrifice. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To choose anything else not only ends up harming those around us, but most especially we damage ourselves, becoming slaves to our passions and desires. When we do fail (because it happens inevitably, since we are fallen beings), we must remember to visit God in the Sacraments, where we can receive more grace to help us become freer.
God bless and enjoy the rest of your summer in a freer way,
Alex John Paul
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Collegeville, MN, The Liturgical Press.
The New American Bible. New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 2004.