What does it mean to be free?

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21 March 2018

The three young men in today’s first reading give an inspiring example of human freedom at its best. They freely choose death rather than compromise on the truth that God is the only one worthy of worship. God then miraculously delivers them from death. Still, the remarkable part of their story is not the physical freedom that they gain, but the interior freedom that they demonstrate.

These two types of freedom are at the heart of Jesus’ conversation with the Jews in today’s gospel. Like them, I can easily fall into the trap of seeing freedom as an exterior thing and asserting that I am already free. But Jesus is talking about the other kind of freedom: that of the heart.

The difference? I have exterior freedom if no person is standing over me forcing me to eat chocolate. I have interior freedom if I can stand and look at chocolate and feel no compulsion to eat it. (So perhaps I am not as free as I think I am!)

In fact, Jesus asserts that all of us who sin are lacking in this kind of freedom. We are, instead, slaves to our desires and fears and passions.

Thankfully for us, Jesus also tells us where we can find such freedom – in a relationship with him! And it is no mere “facebook friendship” with him that will give us this kind of freedom. Jesus uses intimate, familial images to illustrate just what kind of relationship he is talking about – a much deeper, closer relationship that comes from sharing life with him.

It makes sense, really! This is what God created us for – to share our lives with him – and so we will only be truly free as human persons when we are living in relationship with him.

And, for us, it comes as a pertinent reminder of what we are seeking in this season of Lent: freedom from sin and a renewed relationship with God!

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