What is freedom?
According to the world, freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without any hindrance or restraint. The Urban Dictionary calls it “doing my own thing;” doing whatever you feel like, trying new things to figure things out. People who believe in this definition of freedom say, “and that’s okay.”
In the ’60s and ’70s, as a student at a Catholic grade school, my parents and the Sisters of Divine Providence (who taught me) would have called the idea of “doing whatever you want,” being irresponsible. I was blessed to have people around me who were constantly reminding me not to “do my own thing,” but to:
- Always work hard and do your best
- Always do the right thing (obey the Commandments and the laws & norms of our society)
- Remember that every choice we make comes with consequences
- Always behave as though God were watching you
Today’s society touts “doing your own thing” as the key to happiness, whereas the Catholic Church has always promoted responsible freedom as the way to growing in character & virtue and ultimately realizing God’s plan for each of us.
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. – St. John Paul II
Why is this authentic freedom?
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about freedom:
God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. (CCC, no. 1730)
A passage from Bishop Robert Barron’s book, Catholicism – A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, does an excellent job of explaining what freedom is about. Bishop Barron uses the lives of William Shakespeare and Michael Jordan to illustrate how extensive study, practice, listening to others, and discipline propelled both men to greatness and freedom & flexibility in their crafts.
In the cases of both Shakespeare and Jordan, law was not the enemy of freedom, but precisely the condition for its possibility. What is joy, but the experience of having attained the true good? Therefore, in this more biblical way of looking at things, joy (beatitude) is the consequence and not the enemy of law.(Catholicism, p. 40)
St. Pope John Paul II once said, “The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” We do not come to Authentic Freedom, by doing whatever we want. It’s all about ordering our heart to please God alone. This takes a commitment to mastering the basics of our Catholic faith.
Entrust your works (your cares) to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. (cf. Proverbs 16:3)
Meet the Master
Perhaps the perfect start or encouragement for you to grow in Authentic Freedom is Pilgrim Center of Hope’s new, nine-part series. Beginning on April 6, Pilgrim Center of Hope will provide you with a wonderful opportunity to encounter Jesus through common needs & wants we all experience. Meet the Master will offer a morning of reflection on every first Saturday of the month through December 2019. We invite you to Meet the Master!
What Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount, therefore, is that new law that would discipline our desires, our minds, and our bodies so as to make real happiness possible. (Catholicism, p. 40)
This is true Authentic Freedom, responsible freedom, a freedom that will enable you to go from good to great in your faith.
At Pilgrim Center of Hope, we’re here to help you live your daily journey in hope. Let us journey with you. VisitPilgrimCenterOfHope.org. If you are in the San Antonio area, come visit us! Call us about our Meet the Master series of Saturday morning reflections: 210-521-3377.
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