Let Freedom Ring

Jul 10, 2018

Let Freedom Ring

I remember the Independence Day celebrations that took place in Plummer, MN that my four sisters: Mary, Sarah, Lisa, and Maria and I would go to as children when we visited our grandmother.  There was nothing better than running out into the street to pick up the candy thrown by someone in the parade all dressed up.  The carnival atmosphere was something that I could hardly wait for and it seemed like the greatest day ever because it was so care-free.  Now, I write this article after my day off thinking that it was so good to have a little free time yesterday.  I guess my desire for freedom has not changed that much.

Freedom is important to us all.  We work for financial freedom and study for the human freedom that comes from knowing.  Many have died for the most basic freedoms that we have in our country.  But how should we understand freedom?  The relationship between the Christian understanding of freedom and modern understandings of freedom is very important.

For Christianity freedom is not a foreign term.  It is grounded in the belief that each person is created in the image of God, is loved by God, and has infinite worth.  The modern representation of human rights owes its existence to the Judaeo-Christian tradition.  At the same time, the bible presents this freedom in a way that sometimes sounds alienating to the modern view.  In our scriptures human freedom consists in standing before God and being a partner with God, who created us in a harmonious relationship.  This freedom is, however, perverted by original sin.  Jesus Christ came and died for our sins in order to restore this freedom, so our freedom is found in following Jesus.  Freedom, therefore, cannot be a self-seeking or self-empowerment project or it will remain in a hundred different ways bound in knots.  We are really free when we can leap over our own shadows and give ourselves to God and neighbor in unselfish love through Jesus Christ. 

The modern era of the last four or five centuries, while having much that is positive to contribute to the understanding of freedom, has challenged this view.  Reigning religious and political orders which gave stability to humankind fell apart.  The discoveries of science and the universe caused the old picture to collapse.  Gradually, man himself became the point of departure and the norm.  Therefore, freedom became autonomous or self-ruled.  We have no reason to reject the ideas of human rights, equality, and the free political structure or freedom of science, art, and communication since the dignity of the human person is their norm.  However, if humankind is at the center of things, then humankind has a tendency toward a desire for power – power over nature and power over human beings. 

The Church, early in the 20th century, defended human freedom against the totalitarian ideologies of communism and fascism.  Now, in the midst of a purely secular understanding of humankind and of freedom, she proclaims specific truths about God, his son Jesus and the human person that call for a personal decision. As the Gospel of John proclaims, “The truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32).

Christian freedom is the freedom that Jesus Christ has freed us for – to love God and our neighbor – and living out this way of life makes us truly free.  The Church is, therefore, a sign and an instrument of this freedom.  We engage with our culture well by being a sign of hope as we live out this true freedom.  Whether we are doctors, nurses, bankers, lawyers, or custodians, or whether we are retirees, single married or religious, we give witness to true human freedom by our willing service to society and by the love we show to our family members.  Let’s not underestimate this witness.  May God bless you as we continue to celebrate our independence and let freedom ring!

Father Tony