From the Pastor – June 30, 2019

Louisiana Catholic ChurchesBrothers and sisters:  For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day next week, we might reflect a little bit about what it means to be “free.”  In the context of the Fourth of July holiday, freedom means being separated from the political control of a king as had been the case prior to the American revolution.  But “freedom” means many things.  Webster’s Dictionary has a very lengthy definition of freedom.  In part it reads: “a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action  b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous.”

In all of these contexts, freedom seems to be something good.  But even Webster’s goes on to note that freedom without responsibility can degenerated into something that is undesirable:  something called “license.”  License implies a freedom specially granted or conceded and may actually connote an abuse of freedom.  Imagine a bunch of teenagers being left alone in a house for a week while their parents are out of town.  “We’re free!” they might proclaim.  So they raid the freezer and pantry to fill themselves up with ice cream and snacks and whiskey while trashing the kitchen.  They invite friends over for a party during which they play dodge ball in the living room, destroying the furniture.  Some of them decide to use the bedrooms for immoral acts.  Someone drops a lit cigarette, and the dining room burns before they’re able to put out the fire with the garden hose.  Theirs is not true freedom.  Their abuse of freedom will have repercussions when their parents return.  And in the meantime they’re now living in a house that’s more fit for animals than human beings.

Christ calls us to a freedom that gives us peace in this life and points us to a life to come.  But it’s sometimes hard to understand what that means.  The reason is that mankind abused his freedom at the very beginning of history when he succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. Even though we still desires the good, our nature bears the wound of original sin, and we are inclined to evil and subject to error.

What are some examples?  Well, the law of the US allows a mother the “freedom” to kill the child in her womb.  We’re free to commit whatever sexual acts we want as long as they’re done “in the privacy of our own bedroom.”  We’re free to gorge ourselves on food until we’re obese, to drink ourselves into oblivion, to destroy our health with cigarettes.  But are any of those things “true” freedom?

Catholic teaching says otherwise: “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. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude. But by deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.

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.’ … Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.”

We have true freedom in Christ.  May we use this freedom – this mastery of our own minds and bodies – to set ourselves free, and to avoid becoming slaves to sin.  And when our own sins place us in chains of misery and despair, may we reach out for the freedom provided by Sacramental Confession.  The world is not our final destiny.  May we always keep our eyes on Eternity.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty