True freedom means living as sisters and brothers of Christ – not just talking about it

       Back on Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter (May 12), I was attending Mass in the chapel at Carmel Catholic High School early in the morning. About five teachers were present, along with about ten students.

       Fr. John Kartje, rector and president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, was the presider of the Mass. Mass was progressing as normal. However, when Fr. Kartje prayed the Collect, the first words of the prayer hit me like a ton of bricks: “O God, author of our freedom…”

       My first thought upon hearing that line was, “Our culture doesn’t think so!”

       If I were to ask my students if God is the author of our freedom, I would expect most, but not all, to guffaw.

       In our culture, freedom is the absence of restraint on our actions. Freedom is defined as the ability to carry out an activity without being curtailed by Church, State or custom. From the point of view of many of my students, the Church only inhibits freedom (one example might be same sex marriage).

       Furthermore, many of my students see the State, not just as a protector of freedom, but the agency from which freedom is bestowed. The concept of God being the author of freedom is not only foreign to many of them, but downright odd as well.

       This is the month our nation both celebrates its independence from Great Britain and the founding of our nation. Amidst all the hoopla, Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” is hauled out and recited and studied. The famous line, of course, being: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all man are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

       For the sake of our discussion, I wish to emphasize the following words: Created, endowed, life, and liberty. And the word that is holding those words together like glue is “Creator.” The Creator endows human beings with both life and liberty.

       Question: How did we arrive at the point where we believe that the State bestows those “unalienable Rights”?

       But back to that Collect.

       Let’s focus on the word freedom. In the Christian context freedom does not mean the ability to choose from a variety of options without hindrance from State or Church or custom. Rather, in the Christian context, freedom means being free from the slavery of our appetites and the burden of sin.

       Even more importantly, freedom means being free from eternal death. Eternal life is gained for us by the Paschal Mystery of Jesus of Nazareth. Death is not the end.

       Try selling that idea just days before prom.

       But high school students are not the only ones guffawing at such a notion. Adults, too, scoff at such an idea of freedom. Can you say legalized abortion?

       Thomas Merton wrote: “Freedom therefore does not consist in an equal balance between good and evil choices, but in the perfect love and acceptance of what is really good and the perfect hatred and rejection of what is evil” (“New Seeds of Contemplation”)

       Seems to me “love” is the key word in that passage from Merton. As the Collect notes, God is the author of our freedom. But why is God the author? Because God loves us. Thus, any concept of freedom must have as its foundation the love of God.

       And that is precisely why our culture scorns the Christian concept of freedom. Our culture demands that love be separated from freedom.

       All is not woe, however. The war has been won. “The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17). You and I must live as signs of these “new things” that have come. Live, not lecture. Act, not recite. Action followed Jefferson’s wonderful “Declaration of Independence.” In that wonderful Collect for Friday of the fourth week of Easter, you and I must follow up as well. We must live the freedom of sisters and brothers of Christ. Not just talk about it.

       Such are my thoughts in this month of our nation’s 241st year.

       Happy Fourth, Church of Gary!

 

Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .