The 4th of July, for the United States, is a day to celebrate independence, liberty and freedom. But, what really is true freedom? God created us in His image and likeness and gave us free will. And, this free will is one of the ways in which we most resemble God. For that reason, God never violates our free will. Yet, we are never so free as when we freely choose the ultimate Good, God Himself. Our true freedom is found in God. Our true citizenship is found in heaven (cf Philippians 3:20a).
In the beginning, original sin damaged our ability to freely choose God, making our freedom limited and fallible (cf “Catechism of the Catholic Church” [CCC], 1739). And so, it was for freedom that Jesus set us free, in order that we might not submit to the slavery of sin (cf Galatians 5:1). In the sacraments, which were instituted by Christ, we continue to receive the grace of God through the Holy Spirit, to make a free choice for God. Thus, freedom is a Trinitarian gift.
This gift of freedom is not license. It is not exercised by choosing to do evil, by turning a deaf ear to God’s Word, by deadening ourselves with sin. In fact, when we sin, we become less free to love God and neighbor and to give of ourselves. When we focus on ourselves (cupidity) and turn inward, our wills become ill and the choices we make are not effective options. We become blind and turn a deaf ear to injustice. We end up by violating the moral law and rebelling against divine truth (cf CCC, 1740). St. Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” And, this likewise applies to what the Church believes and teaches. If we call ourselves Catholics, and pick and choose what Church teachings we will follow and what we will not follow, we deceive ourselves and end up following the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. It is only when we receive the grace of Christ that our wills are healed so that our choices are good ones. We cannot do it on our own. God’s work in us doesn’t lessen or prevent our freedom. It actually makes true freedom possible.
What does all this have to do with spiritual direction? A good spiritual director helps us get to know ourselves better and shows us our blind spots. The director helps us detach from worldly attachments and choose Jesus ever more fully, so that we may indeed freely choose to live, serve, and die as the adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father that we have become through our baptism in Christ, so as to rise to new life in Him.
Art: The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Son of God Gathering and Protecting Mankind, Frans Floris, 1562, PD, CC, Wikimedia Commons.
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