Enslaved to be Free
In the human heart there is perhaps no greater yearning than freedom. Humanity wants to be free. It is in its very nature. Though it does not transcend love, without freedom love cannot truly exist. Since God is love, small wonder that The Almighty included in His design of man this natural law that man must choose Him freely, and yet the great paradoxical truth remains that to attain salvation one must surrender oneself totally to Christ. We like to believe that we live in a free society; however a quick tour of the Seven Deadly Sins reveals a far different picture.
Pride gains the top spot as the ultimate enemy of freedom. This excessive belief in one's own abilities literally binds one to the matters of mortal affairs. Its chains of bondage are so strong that one can see the beauty and perfection of God's grace and yet still choose to pursue self over the divine. Case in point, how often does one avoid the sacrament of reconciliation out of pride? This awesome sacrament where Christ renews one's very soul gets put off in favor of ego, embarrassment, or denial of need. One longs to break free of sin, and pride anchors one's will to attain absolution.
Envy captures many a prisoner. Jimmy Buffet once described the way to happiness as to simply "want what you have." The culture forges the chains of envy by continuously reinforcing the notion that one never has enough. Happiness gets defined as attaining something better than what one already has, and as a result, the true blessings are discounted, shelved, and determined in need of upgrading.
Gluttony weighs one down from arising to Heaven. Historians may very well one day write that the age of enlightenment was followed by an age of consumerism. Morbid obesity simply serves as an icon to a much grander reality of fallen man in today's culture. More is better. That message permeates every corner of the human experience. More food, more money, more sex, more power; the list goes on and on.
Lust handcuffs true love. Working from the line of thought that the opposite of love is not hate but rather indifference, lust transforms the total self-donating intent of human sexuality into detached, self-serving biology. The Western culture imposes a view of this most precious gift from God as something that does not matter one way or the other so long as it gets satisfied. Yet man was designed for something so much greater as the late John Paul II beautifully expresses in his Theology of the Body.
Anger imprisons an otherwise charitable heart. Man lashes out and chooses fury over love. He opts for hatred over compassion. George Will recently wrote in an editorial that expression of indignation alone has become the culture's measure of good character. One simply has to exhibit anger about something to attain credibility. Certainly there are injustices that warrant one's ire; oppression, tyranny, senseless killing and the like. How often does one extend the desire to punish which should be reserved for more serious matters to the more mundane failings of a brother's human nature? How interesting that the word anger is derived from the Latin word angere, which means to strangle. The choice to turn the other cheek or strangle the offender plays out every day.
Greed confines generosity. While it often finds itself interwoven with envy and gluttony, this covetousness trait rejects the spiritual realm and goes after the material world above all things. Man wants wealth not because he needs it; not because of the good he can do with it; but simply because he can attain it. Humanity has the means to end starvation all over the world. It simply chooses not to do so as greed dictates.
Finally there is perhaps the cruelest tyrant of freedom, Sloth. How easy it is to simply do nothing. How tempting to just sit and watch. How alluring to employ inaction. How true that those idle hands are the Devil's workshop. Satan counts on sloth to attract souls to him. Why pray the rosary when a rerun of Friends is on TV? An unborn child is killed by abortion every two minutes, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Sloth is what keeps one from joining the fight for life. It is simply easier not to get involved. It was sloth that led to the very fall of man. While Eve took the fruit from the Devil, Adam did nothing.
The key to freedom is Jesus Christ. If one wants to taste true liberty, then one need only trust in Our Lord and totally, faithfully, and willingly give oneself away and become not His slave, but rather His bride. God so loves humanity so very much that He sent a savior to not just unlock the shackles of sin that restrict our movement to Him, but to carry the heavy weight of those chains of each and every human being all the way to the cross.
Mel Gibson created a masterpiece in his Passion of the Christ; however it was an earlier movie entitled Braveheart where his character William Wallace gave a perfect metaphor for what mankind seeks. As Wallace nears the end of his torturous death, affixed to a cross, he cries out with his last breath from the very depth of his soul, "FREEDOM!"
This Holy Week, use Wallace's battle cry against the oppression his people faced as one's own personal mantra against sin. Everyone carries the propensity for each of the seven deadly sins. Perhaps each day of this week, one can examine one's conscience regarding one of the sins and even if its just for that day, surrender the transgression to Our Lord. Go to confession this week, and when dawn breaks on Easter Sunday morning, and one discovers that the tomb is empty, rejoice and let your soul be heard in Heaven as you shout out your own, "FREEDOM!"