By Andrew Kreye
“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” – Pope St. John Paul II
- What is Freedom?
“Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32
One day, many years ago, I was given a box of candy.
Not just any candy. It was one of my favorite candies. I would have eaten the entire box in one day, but one thing stopped me…
So, I did the only rational thing my child-mind could think up, and I hid the candy.
Of course, it would be too obvious if I ate too many at once, so I spaced it out. Every time I walked past the hiding place, I would take one piece.
It didn’t take long for my family to catch on.
Maybe it was my frequent trips through the living room that gave me away. Or perhaps it was the long pauses by the box of piano books.
I really can’t say how they saw through my ingenious plan, but for the day that it lasted, I was free to eat candy whenever I wanted.
That’s freedom, right? At least, that’s the world’s definition of freedom. The ability to do whatever we want without anyone or anything stopping us.
If that’s what freedom is, then it would be very easy to say that Catholics are not free. Just look at all the things we have to do! Go to Mass, go to Confession, abstain from meat, fasting before Mass (we can’t even eat whenever we want!).
Catholics are obviously not free. At least, not if we listen to the world.
- Are We Free?
“For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” – Galatians 5:13
There is another way to define freedom, which can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“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.” – CCC 1731
(Notice how it says, “to act or not to act”? We’ll come back to that later.)
Question: Is everyone free?
All humans are given the gift of free will, but some become slaves to sin.
“The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin.’” – CCC 1733
Being able to eat candy whenever I pleased was freedom to 8-year-old Andrew, but looking back, I know that I wasn’t free. I was not free to choose not to eat the candy, and therefore I was not truly free.
It is the same with sin, no matter what form it takes. Anger, gossip, lust, gluttony. We will always be tempted, and sometimes we will give in.
If the hold of sin on you is so strong that you are not able to choose not to sin, then you are not free. This can be most easily seen in cases of addiction.
Do not be afraid! Remember that sin has no power over Christ. Have faith in Jesus, and He will give you the strength to repent. He is waiting with open arms to welcome you back into relationship with Himself.
Once you use the freedom you have received from God to do good, it will become easier the next time.
And that’s virtue.
- Be Free.
“Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.” – 1 Peter 2:16
As Catholics, there are times when the Church asks something of us, such as going to Mass on Sunday. We have the power to refuse, but as children of God, it is our responsibility to accept.
It may be inconvenient, and sometimes you may not want to, but that makes it an even greater act of love when you choose to do good.
This is why we have free will: so that every action we choose has meaning. Every time we say “yes” to God, every time we choose to love Him, it brings us closer to Him. And God returns that love to us in an even greater portion.
It’s easy to be distracted by the number of things we need to do or by all the things we can’t do.
That’s when we need to remember that we do what we do out of love for God and for one another.
We do God’s will out of love, even denying our own wants at times, because He loves us and knows better than us what we need.
In choosing to love and serve God, we grow in virtue. By growing in virtue, we become free because we gain the power to choose to act or not to act. God gives us the power to choose evil or good. To choose sin or love.
That is true freedom.
Jesus can give you freedom no matter who you are.
So, take courage, have faith in Christ, and be free.
“Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness.” – Romans 6:12-13