Let Responsible Freedom Ring!

 

Let's Celebrate...responsibly!

On the 4th of July every year, Americans celebrate Independence Day. We remember and celebrate the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. There are an array of parades, barbecues, picnics, parties, reunions and fireworks! Boy, do we know how to party!

Yet how many of us actually know what the Declaration of Independence is all about? 

Here are a couple excerpts from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.

That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.

Ah, the freedom to live, love and be free. But....what does freedom mean?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1731 shares the following definition of freedom: 

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. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

St. John Paul II also has a beautiful definition of freedom. In his Message for the Celebration of the Day of Peace in 1981 he stated,

The best guarantee of freedom and its real attainment depends upon the responsibility of individuals and peoples, upon the concrete efforts of each person at his own level, in his immediate environment, nationally and internationally. For freedom is not something that is given. It is something to be constantly won. It goes hand in hand with the sense of responsibility that everyone must have.

Interestingly enough, both definitions define freedom in the same context as responsibliliy. The two cannot be separated. 

Freedom Vs. License

Today we have blurred the distinction between freedom and license. In his address to the United Nation’s general assembly in New York in 1995, St. John Paul the Great shared that,

Detached from the truth about the human person, freedom deteriorates into license in the lives of individuals, and in political life it becomes the caprice of the most powerful and the arrogance of power. Far from being a limitation upon freedom or a threat to it, reference to the truth about the human person — a truth universally knowable through the moral law written on the hearts of all — is in fact the guarantor of freedom’s future.

By thinking of freedom as license, we fall for the lie that we can do whatever we want, without any negative consequences, and we can detach ourselves from the responsibility that inherently is built into making free choices. While the fight for freedom once set us free from the grip of a tyrant, when we fail to see that eliminating consequences that come with actions, we become a tyrant. After all, what is a tyrant but someone who has absolute power and wields it willy-nilly, believing he has no consequences and ultimate authority.

Looking at our nation, are we not turning into a land that now embraces tyranny? We have become so detached from the truth of who we are as man and woman, made in the image of God. We now speak of freedom as license, with man-made rights to be or do anything. From this perspective, freedom is understood to be "might-makes-right", with those who have the gold make all the rules. Those with "traditional mores" are viewed as old fashioned and outdated, who should just "get with the times". And if one insists upon a Christian view of freedom, the rights enshrined in the 1st Amendment to speak, to stand up for the truths of our faith are being rendered usunder because of "hate speech", being labeled as "homophobic" or "transphobic,' even suffering some of the consequences found in sections of Canada where pastors are being charged with a "hate crime" for preaching the Gospel.

Comparing this with the above definition of the Catechism, we must ask: Are we truly living the words, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?” Is viewing of the human person as an object in pornography a flourishing of human freedom, or is the mutilation of the human body helping us to live freedom authentically the image of God?

Sadly, these and many other violations against the dignity of the human body-person are not simply allowed in America, but are promoted and lauded. Such "freedom" is tyranny and will not bring one the happiness that they seek. 

Living in the Freedom of Christ

Some of us view laws as a cage, as rules meant to oppress, limit our actions and take away our freedom. This can be true when they are imposesd by an authority that wishes to oppress and control for its own benefit. 

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.- Matthew 17:18

But we can recognize which laws are actually there for the right reasons. What is the good fruit? One that directs us to God. 

Growing up, many of us -- myself included --  often looked at the 10 commandments as a set of tedious and oppressive rules. Life was always a set of rules and ‘don’ts’: “Don’t touch that! Don’t hit your sister! Don’t be back late!” Sure, as a kid, all these ‘don’ts’ can be pretty suffocating.

As a father now, I look back at these ‘ don’ts’ very differently. I recognize my mother's rules as coming from a place of love, so that I didn’t hurt myself or my brother. It was a necessity to teach me the rules on what not to do, to provide a clear understanding on what is good and what is not acceptable. When we know what we shouldn’t do, things become clearer on what we should do. We are then able to then live more freely, without the constant doubt if what we are doing is right or wrong. 

Jesus Christ gave us two new commandments,

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. - Matthew 22: 38-40

These two commandments are not different from the 10 commandments given in the Law of Moses; rather, He shares with us the purpose and the main objective of all the commandments. We are His children, and He opens up His heart to us and reveals the mystery of why He has these ‘rules’: because He loves us. To follow God's laws does not take away our freedom, but actually sets us free to fulfill the very reason why we exist: to love as God loves.

This implies that freedom can never mean license but rather is the means to pursue a life-giving calling. Catechism 1740 states: 

The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, "the subject of this freedom," is "an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods." Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.

When we start abusing freedom for our own benefit and without the need for any consequences, we start deviating from the true meaning of freedom. We instead start embracing the lie of the Serpent all over again. A life of freedom devoid of God has no anchor and thus cannot be true freedom. When we believe the illusion of freedom we become a slave of sin and death. Responsibility becomes not a natural outcome of freedom but instead an intollerable burden to be avoided at all costs. 

Let the Church Bells Ring

To live a life of true freedom, we need to first come back to our anchor, Jesus Christ. 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. - 2 Corinthians 3:17

Our lives are a constant battleground. The Devil does not want us to live a life of freedom, but rather enslave us in the ways of the world, robbing us of the meaning of God’s love. 

By extention, we as Americans must fight for our nation to once again be a one nation under God. We need to let our church bells ring louder than ever, echoing the call to live a life of responsible freedom.

Making this practical, exodus 90 (7.2.24 reflection) offers a few practical ways to align ourselves to the freedom that God has in store for us. 

1. Prayer. We encounter Christ in prayer and are transformed into becoming more like Him. Always show up for prayer. 

2. Read the Bible. In the Bible, we have the word of God that has Scripture and Tradition handed down to us. As we strive to get to know Him more and learn more about our faith, how we think, our morals and principles will be more of God.

3.  Learn the value of asceticism. Learning self control allows us to experience more fully the freedom that God has for us. Fasting and saying ‘no’ to smaller things, helps us to desire what is truly good and beautiful.  

4. Community. Having like minded people who can share the faith and hold each other up is important. We were created for community. As we grow with community, we are able to live God’s freedom together.

5. Receive the Sacraments often. We are blessed with many graces to conquer this world. Confession is an important. It brings us back to Him when we fall and it helps us overcome our failings. The Eucharist makes us one with Him and transforms us from the inside.

This is Independence Day, let us make true freedom ring again!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5 :1

Steve Pokorny is the Founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-to-one mentoring system designed to break the power of pornified images in both men and women. His book, Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from the Pornified Culture, is available from Amazon.

July 3, 2024 - 11:30pm
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