Sunday, June 27, 2010

Liberty, Slavery, Life and Death

In today's world, we find ourselves in a place and time where the words "liberty" and "freedom," so long cherished in the American tradition, have become horribly twisted and disfigured to mean the freedom to do whatever we want.  But, as the second reading from the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Calendar C) reminds us, the freedom to choose is only a half of the equation that Christ gives us through his life, death, and Resurrection.

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.

But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
St Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that free will also comes with a very certain set of instructions attached:  it is not for us to use "as an opportunity for the flesh," but rather as an opportunity to choose to serve one another in love and, in doing so, to demonstrate our love for God.  To choose the selfless, servant love that God intended and Christ modeled for us, is the reason that he died to secure our liberty from the eternal slavery of sin and death.  If we use that freedom to choose otherwise--to serve ourselves and "the desire of the flesh," we violate the purpose of the liberty, which leads right back into the only alternative: the slavery from which we were ransomed.

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