What an emotionally stirring word. People of my generation can remember Richie Havens singing the word over and over again at Woodstock and the positive response he got for doing so.
But freedom can have many meanings. For students and teachers, it may describe the end of classes and the beginning of a vacation. For some countries, it may hold the hope of political change as it did here when on July 4, 1776 a declaration was made for
independence. For prisoners, it would mean parole or the completion of a jail term and a return to a world without bars or guards. For most it means an ability to choose on one's own a course of action. For a few it means the chance to do whatever one wants to do.
But, that last concept of freedom is better understood as a definition of CHAOS or absolute narcissism, for freedom has to be balanced by responsibility and accountability. St. Paul tells the Galatians-and us-that our freedom is not just from something but freedom for something. And so Paul reminds them and us of a command by which we are to temper our freedom: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
All fine and good but what does this mean practically? First of all, it means that we do not need a law to tell us how to behave in every circumstance. If we think a particular action is wrong or possibly harmful to another, we choose a different way of acting. For example, if I believe the use of cell phones while driving presents a clear and present danger to others, I won't drive while chatting or texting away. I don't ne e d a law to make that decision. Or, if I believe that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, a law that permits abortion or allows for capital punishment will not convince me that such actions are right simply because they are legal. The fact that we can do something doesn't mean we have to exercise that right.
Secondly, I think it means that as disciples of Christ we must consider the impact our choices have on others. We do not live in bubbles isolated from one another. How I drive a car, for example once again will contribute to either road rage in others or perhaps lead them to safer habits themselves. (Remember that the next time you're on that racetrack known as Rte. 2!) No matter what government does or does not do, I can conserve energy or recycle or not litter out of concern not just for my wallet or pocketbook but because it will make the world better and cleaner for others now and in the future.
Today we celebrate our freedom in Christ. On July 4 we celebrate our freedom as citizens of the United States. How well do we appreciate and live those freedoms?
-Fr. Sas, Homily from June 30
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C