When people hurt others, by saying or doing cruel and selfish things, it’s fairly obvious they aren’t making loving decisions. Why do we do this? Another way to understand sin is to consider it as a limitation. We simply aren’t free to choose what is good and just and often we’re not even aware of what’s holding us back. In Season 2 of Ted Lasso the main characters repeat often: “the truth will set you free,” but they don’t credit Jesus for this wisdom. (John 8:32)
As a former Catholic high school teacher approaching the subject of freedom, I always asked students whether a teenager could be considered more or less free if they were allowed to do whatever they wanted, at any time and with whomever they chose…. OR….. did a 16 year old with parents/guardians who set limits and provided structure actually enjoy more freedom?
Some of the kids thought that a teenager with no limits placed on them had more freedom, but when questioned they agreed that their choices regarding future plans for career and relationships would be more limited. In the United States we consider ourselves to have political and economic freedom, but in Catholic teaching, true freedom is not about politics or economics; it’s about being able to choose what is good, true and beautiful.
In the Gospel reading for this week Bartimaeus, a persistent blind man, is given sight. Like Bartimaeus, we too need “sight” in order to recognize the truth, beauty, and goodness all around us. We are given the incredible freedom to love and build community – even access the Divine community – but all too often, we’re blind like Bartimaeus and can’t even see that we have this gift. When we discern, we often think only of ourselves and in the short term. Fear of what others may think or fear of losing our status or wealth often influences our discernment process.
Paradoxically, it is only possible to be truly free if we invite God’s grace into our lives and allow Him to guide us. The capacity for self-determination includes our being attentive to God’s will. God has a plan for us: our destiny is for happiness in God’s presence and we can co-operate in accomplishing this by being able to identify –“see” – truth, goodness and beauty all around us. Being able to appreciate what has been made available to us will definitely influence our decision-making in both everyday decisions and life-changing ones.
Having the ability to see truth, goodness, and beauty is a gift from God; one that is often not recognized or acknowledged because we fail to appreciate the efforts of the giver. God’s gift of freedom is a costly one and our tradition teaches that Jesus readily sacrificed his life on the cross. Let us not forget that Jesus, right before he was to be handed over to the authorities said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke22:42) Freedom isn’t about doing whatever we think we want, it’s about honest discernment that leads us to understand what God wants of us and freely choosing to do it. This, in turn, leads us to joy, goodness and truth which sets us free.
Colm Is a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston and a prison Chaplain. He and his wife Julie have 4 adult children and 2 grandchildren. His Catholic faith has always been a central part of his family and work life and is a source of endless joy.