Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 2, 2006

Our country celebrates the great national holiday of Independence Day this week, and for all of us it’s an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, to enjoy the fireworks displays, and to have a long weekend. In the midst of our celebrations, let’s not forget to remember and pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who continue to defend American independence on the battlefield. One of the current basic training slogans used by drill sergeants to motivate their troops is “Freedom isn’t free!” May God protect and bless all our service personnel and their families this Fourth of July and may we never forget the high cost of freedom borne by our courageous veterans.

Freedom and independence are blessings cherished by all Americans. Nevertheless, responsibility always accompanies the exercise of freedom; for us to be truly free, we must choose according to the truth. When we exercise our freedom to choose whatever we desire, instead of what we ought to desire, we act contrary to this great gift. Once, I heard an excellent example to illustrate this point:
Someone, desiring to exercise his freedom without restraint, decides to fill his car’s gas tank with lemonade. “No-one,” he said, “can tell me how to operate my car. It’s my car, and I’ll use it however I want.” This man certainly was free to do as he chose; but now, he is a pedestrian.

What is freedom? The Catechism explains: “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (CCC 1731). Human freedom flourishes when we choose according to the truth; we become more free the more we continue to choose our greatest good, who is God Himself. Therefore, the saint is the person who exercises his or her freedom perfectly: even though the number of choices may be drastically reduced (since all sinful choices are immediately rejected), the quality of choice is increased because God is the final object of love, which is manifest in every concrete decision.

The opposite? We turn to the Catechism which reminds us: “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the ‘slavery of sin’” (CCC 1733). Therefore, even though choosing sin may appear to be a broader number of choices, in fact, “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just” (ibid.). Just like the man who ruined his automobile, we ruin ourselves when we choose against the exercise of virtue, according to God’s plan for our lives.

In our exercise of freedom, we realize our true dignity as children of God, made in His image and likeness. Happily, we are not left to our own strength to determine what is right, and then to choose those things. Our Lord founded a Church, to which He gave the assurance of constant help from the Holy Spirit; He continues to teach us the truth through His Church. Moreover, God supports us daily with His infinite strength and power, continually bestowing grace when we request His help. Instead of restricting our freedom, the free gift of grace supports and strengthens our free choice.

As we read in the Catechism, “the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world” (CCC 1742). Therefore, even when we are under great stress and anxiety, God’s grace enables us to be self-possessed and act in the true freedom which characterizes the children of God.

Jesus and Mary exemplify this great exercise of freedom for excellence according to the truth. Our Lord freely chose the Cross to save us from sin and death; our Lady freely chose to accept the call to be the Mother of God, with all its suffering and toil. May we imitate this perfect use of the gift of freedom and respond to God’s offer of grace which calls us all to be holy and perfect in his sight, all the days of our life.

Happy Fourth of July!