“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)
This is the promise Jesus makes to His disciples before His death on the Cross. Perhaps like the disciples, we too wonder what this promise of freedom means for us.
The Church teaches us that “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” and freedom “attains its perfections when directed towards God, our beatitude” (CCC1731). How beautiful is this vision of freedom we have been given!
Yet, sometimes we settle for worldly freedom – the absence of rules and restrictions, being able to do what we want, whenever we want. In pursuing worldly freedom, we become more inward-looking, anxious to do what we think is best for ourselves, what would bring us the greatest gain. We become the god of our own lives, forgetting the price that was paid for our lives. Unknowingly, we bind ourselves even more tightly to our feelings and the circumstances of our lives and find ourselves more imprisoned and further from true freedom than we were before.
The Good News, brothers and sisters, is that the Cross is our Salvation, and Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Our freedom is the fruit of Jesus’ deliberate action, on His own responsibility, of dying on the Cross so that we may be reconciled with God. This freedom that Jesus promises is not fleeting but spans throughout time into eternity. It is clear to see how different, how much more precious, and how much more lasting this gift of Christian freedom is. Our call as disciples is to pursue this Christian freedom in our everyday lives. How then do we begin to live rooted in this freedom that Jesus has promised us?
St Paul points us in the right direction through his second letter to the Corinthians: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). In the everyday sense, this means persistently learning to be in tune with the Holy Spirit by committing to a consistent life of prayer. Frequenting the Sacraments, whether daily Mass or receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, is one practical yet powerful way of living a life in the Spirit.
The Church also teaches us that “the more one does what is good, the freer one becomes” because “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just” (CCC1733). Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to make the active choice to be of service to others, just as the Good Shepherd laid down his life for us on his own accord (John 10:18). For us, this can mean choosing to be kind in our words, choosing to be patient with others, or even just offering a listening ear to someone who needs it. In being of service to others, we choose the freedom of Christ by putting others’ needs above our own and allow ourselves to be given freely in love to love the other.
In my journey as a disciple, Christ continues to invite me to live in greater freedom. This is not always easy, especially in this season where He is inviting me to give more of myself to Him. In prayer, the Lord revealed His desire for me to be free from the slavery of perfection. I began to recognise how my need for perfection or to be perfect had such a strong grip and influence on me. Whether in ministry, at work, or even in my relationships with others, my need to do well and to be seen as “put together” had begun to overshadow the Lord’s call to do what is good and just, and more importantly, what is pleasing to Him. When I made a mistake or when someone shared feedback or displeasure, I beat myself up for letting them down and failing to meet the expectation of perfection I put on myself. The more I strived for perfection, the more burdened and discouraged I felt.
The Lord, however, was persistent in desiring true freedom for me, just as He desires the same freedom for each one of you. Through prayer and time spent attuning myself to the Holy Spirit, I am beginning to let go of this need to be perfect and to listen to the voice of the Lord who calls me to true freedom. The Lord has also blessed me with a community of faith, brothers and sisters who continue to remind me that Christ calls us each to live fully the freedom He has won for us on the Cross. I know I still have a long way to go, but I am learning that freedom is an interior reality that can only be found and perfected in Christ Himself.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that we begin to desire more earnestly the true freedom Christ has promised us. Though we may stumble along the way, I pray that we may persevere and remember the words of St Paul: “For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)