Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Every year, many people travel to Liberty Island in New York City to visit the Statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” which is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom. To many people, freedom means something different. Some claim that freedom “consists in the private enjoyment of one’s life and goods.” Others claim that freedom is the right to do whatever one wants
to do. But what is the true meaning of freedom?
God teaches us truly what freedom is. In the gospel of St. John, Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him that “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.” (Jn 8:31-32) The first thing that comes to mind here is that, God’s Commandments which consist in loving God with all our heart, mind, and spirit and to love our neighbors as ourselves, are not contrary to freedom. It is necessary to keep God’s Commandments to be truly free, for “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” (Jn 8:34) This is echoed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that teaches that “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.” (CCC 1733) The more we grow in virtues the freer we become; and the more we submit to vices and the works of the flesh the less free we become.
In his homily given in Baltimore during his visit to the U.S. in 1995, Pope John Paul II said that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” He added that without truth there is no authentic freedom. Freedom finds its fulfilment in the truth, “the truth that is intrinsic to human life created in God’s image and likeness, the truth that is written on the human heart, the truth that can be known by reason and can therefore form the basis of a profound and universal dialogue among people about the direction they must give to their lives and their activities.”
Following the same line of thought, Pope Francis, in a homily on June 29, 2021, says that true freedom consists in following God with joy, even if it brings hardship and suffering. Freedom finds its true meaning only in God. The Holy Father says, “It is God who gives us true freedom: freedom from sin, from our sense of failure, from our fears . . . from hypocritical outward show . . . from the temptation to present ourselves with worldly power rather than with the weakness that makes space for God . . . from a religiosity that makes us rigid and inflexible . . . from dubious associations with power.” As St. Paul reminds us, “for freedom Christ has set us free.” (Gal 5:1) Let us put our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us true freedom and whose Mercy is endless.