THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.
I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
There are many ways God could have created the world. We could have been “programmed” to do all the right things, to never fall into sin, to automatically obey Him in all things, but that was not how God wanted life for us. He made us with free will. He gave our nature a desire for freedom. We know this innately, and it is demonstrated by the many wars and ideologies human history have fought to combat the assault on the freedom of the human spirit.
I remember hearing the true story of a political prisoner who had been caught and locked in solitary confinement. This man faced four walls and was given limited rations of food and water. One of these occasions, the guard brought him his first glass of water for that day. He looked at it, and proceeded to hold the glass in his hand, and poured the water down the wash basin. It was the act of a crazy man one may say, to be thirsty and not drink, to be without and not take. The guard ,equally perplexed, asked him why. His response was simple, “You may lock me here physically, but you will never take away my freedom. I can still choose to drink or not to drink.”
The story of this prisoner reminds us that true freedom requires self-mastery, or else we are still slaves; slaves to our senses, slaves to sin.
In our privileged Western society, freedom has become one of the most misunderstood idea. We forget that like everything given to us, it is for a purpose and not an end in itself. We forget that freedom is not doing everything our appetites want, but choosing what is most loving towards others and ourselves.
As St Paul tells us in today’s reading, the purpose of freedom is to allow us to love. True freedom lays the foundation for the thriving of true love because we cannot have love without freedom, for then it is not love but ensnarement.
The love of Christ is perfect because it is free as He holds nothing back of Himself, but also it has been given to us through the Cross in order to set us free so we may be more of who we are.
God loved us into being. He continues to love us and desires our love in return. The only way this could have been possible is if He made us free. Of course, He knew there is always the chance that we will not return His love, but those who love know that there is never any regret when one loves well, despite the risk, for love begets even greater interior freedom than we ever thought possible, and we become more of who we are.