Sunday, June 30, 2013

for freedom we have been set free

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
30 June 2013
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Year of Faith

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This word freedom should resonate with a particular intensity and focus on this week we prepare to celebrate our Independence as a country.  For we live in the greatest experiment of freedom ever tried on the face of the earth.  The destiny of the United States is to be a beacon of freedom for the whole world, for this country was founded at the price of many lives, by those seeking a freedom that has been denied, and is being denied yet today, to the vast majority of human persons living throughout the world.  We enjoy right now the greatest amount of freedom for self-expression and self-determination collectively as a nation of any people at any time in human history.  This is reason to celebrate, and to shoot-off fireworks, and something to never take for granted, but something to be grateful for.

As Archbishop Naumann reminded us last week, however, this freedom is either being fought for yet today, or it is slowly but surely being lost.  Human history should tell us that the freedom we enjoy right now is fleeting at best, unless it is purchased by sacrifice and courage, and defended to the utmost at each and every  junction and moment.  As St. Paul says to the Galatians: if you are free, do not submit again to the yoke of slavery!  Archbishop Naumann reminded us that a first and fundamental freedom of our country, one which should be guaranteed and defended not minimally, but to the utmost, is religious freedom.  It is the freedom to act as fully as possible on the convictions derived from conscience.  This religious freedom is at the heart of true liberty and lasting human dignity.  Archbishop Naumann informed us of the current threats to religious freedom in our country, and urged us to remain vigilant.  We should keep this in our minds and hearts as we celebrate July 4th this year.  Very few in human history enjoy the religious freedom that we have at this moment.  It must never be taken for granted.

Yet. St. Paul is talking about more than the freedom we enjoy as Americans, the freedom of self-expression and self-determination, the freedom to act in accord with our convictions.  No, St. Paul is talking about the spiritual freedom that comes to disciples of Jesus.  Specifically, St. Paul references the spiritual freedom of self-gift - a deeper freedom than that guaranteed by the Constitution.  It is a freedom that has its origin in God - a freedom to love another person more than ourselves - a freedom to make a complete gift of ourselves.  St. Paul says that whoever has been first loved by Christ, who always loves in this spiritually free way, is also free to make the same self-gift in response and in imitation of the Lord.

Today's scriptures show us what deep and lasting freedom looks like.  It is the freedom to love, and the freedom to obey out of love.  The scriptures show us that obedience is no burden for the one who is in love, for the one who is free.  True freedom is to allow one's self to be chosen for a mission and a love greater than what we can choose.  The freedom to be chosen is a greater freedom than to choose, though the latter can never be lessened or skipped over.

The scriptures remind us that being free as a Christian is an exciting adventure of being chosen for a mission that is beyond our ability to manage or measure or control.  What this means of course, that being a Christian is a never a conservative micro-managing of life as it is right now.  No, it is a radical freedom to be detached from the need for insuring my life, and to be detached from things going my way or going in the future as they have in the past.  A Christian enjoys a radical freedom to be more available in the future than he has been in the past, to be more ready for things to change more in the future than they have in the past, to live the adventure of being ready for anything even at the cost of sacrificing something very good for the chance at something greater.

This is not a reckless freedom of doing what I want, a license that ultimately leaves to slavery, and a caving into ourselves.  No, as we see in the scriptures, this freedom is a freedom to do exactly and only what God is asking of us - it is a purification of freedom through obedience, and a deepening of desire through the loving of something, and someone, more than I love myself.  This is a freedom, as St. Paul says, that comes first to us as a gift from Christ.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  As we approach our nation's independence, let us receive this freedom in a new and powerful way, in the gift of the Eucharist, that is Christ's perfect and free gift of love to each of us.  Amen.

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