Freedom FOR, not freedom TO

Chaput reminds us that God endows us with freedom for doing good and right, rather than freedom to do whatever we please:

My dear friends, true freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything -- wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.

Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who -- having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills -- can now play anything she wants.

The same holds true for our lives. We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intentions for us, then -- and only then -- will we be truly free.

This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, of Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering, adversity and death.

This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.

I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.

Here’s the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for the good of society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind, our whole strength, our whole soul and all that we are?

Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a “new order of the ages,” the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.

And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.

God’s word in today’s first reading is a caution we ignore at our own expense. “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”

Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in words, but also in deeds. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.

from Whispers

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