What is freedom? What does it look like? For some people, freedom might be epitomized, believe or not, in a pirate sailing the Seven Seas. Pirates are free spirits. They are free to do what they want: they can choose when to go to sleep and when to wake up, they have no burdens or responsibilities, they’re free to plan their day however they please, and can sail wherever the winds lead them. Sounds pretty nice, right?
Our culture tells us that freedom is the ability to do what I want, when I want, and however I want it. And although a pirate might be an extreme example of this, the fact is that we admire that ability. But there’s only one problem with that – it’s a false freedom. Really this freedom is surrounded by uncertainty and insecurity – a constant search for fulfillment.
True freedom for Christians comes from following Christ and being his disciple. It’s not being able to do what I want, but to do as I ought, as Christ has shown me. When we embrace freedom in a true and authentic way, we make Jesus the one who strengthens us, who keeps us safe.
Freedom isn’t just an ability; it’s a right. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:
“Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.” (Catechism §1738)
Many people talk about the United States as being a free country, and about people winning us our freedoms. And while this is in some sense true, it’s important to remember that we don’t bring about freedom for ourselves. It is something given to us by God, and is part of our being created in the image and likeness of God. It is given to us when his Law is written on our hearts. That freedom is given to us so that we can be able to freely give of ourselves.
The government can’t give that, and the government can’t take that away, at least not really. But what is important, and what we pray for this evening, is that those who truly wish to serve our country and its people would protect that freedom. Chief among these is the freedom to do what God has created us for – to love and serve him and each other, in accordance with his will.
So now as we approach the Lord in prayer before the Eucharist this evening, let us recognize that he offers us more freedom than we can possibly give ourselves, and embracing that freedom as his disciples, let us freely place our hearts and petitions on the altar, and ask him to give us the strength to dedicate our whole lives, one day at a time, to doing his will.