August 1, 2009
Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church
This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, every one to his own family estate. In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee, you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines. Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you, you may not eat of its produce, except as taken directly from the field. Leviticus 25:10-12
His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. Matthew 14:12-14
We praise you Father for the gift of liberty that you have provided to us, your children. We have the freedom to gather in worship, the freedom to praise you, the freedom to believe and the freedom to hope for your Kingdom to come. In what we do and in what we say, help us to bring such liberty to others – those in our families, neighborhoods, parishes, nation and world. In this way, they too can be free to worship you. Amen.
Today’s readings rejoice in liberty for the captives much like that which Jesus proclaimed in the Nazareth manifesto.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Luke 4:16-19
Yet, liberty is the condition into which people enter after being held captive. Freedom emerges only after being imprisoned.
Are we free like the slaves who were released during the jubilee year? Or are we free like John the Baptist – free to speak truth to power and not fear the consequences.
Is freedom a concept that we share all the time or only when it is granted to us by some external and temporal authority? Are we free from physical imprisonment? Are we free from mental torment? Jesus wants us to be free from anxiety but for us, it is so hard to release our minds from the cares of the world.
Sometimes, when we consider the term prisoner, we picture only people who have actually broken a law – murderers, bank robbers, and others. Yet today, we also have white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff and the former executives at companies like Enron who may not have robbed a bank but who have robbed so many people of their livelihood and current or future security.
In addition, we also have prisoners of conscience who peacefully break what they consider to be unjust laws in hope of overturning those laws. The Polish trade union Solidarity broke laws to overturn a repressive government. Nelson Mandela also led a revolution that did away with the apartheid form of government in South Africa.
Through it all, God alone sets of free from what oppresses us.
This week, Archbishop Edward O’Brien of Baltimore called on academic, military, government and international leaders to embark on the “Path to Zero” nuclear weapons during a conference on deterrence. According to the release from the USCCB, Archbishop O’Brien drew on longstanding Catholic teaching that nuclear deterrence is only acceptable to prevent others from using nuclear weapons and as a step along a path to a world without nuclear weapons.
“Religious leaders, prominent officials, and other people of goodwill who support a nuclear-weapons-free world are not naïve about the task ahead,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “They know the path will be difficult and will require determined political leadership, strong public support, and the dedicated skills of many capable leaders and technical experts. But difficult is not impossible.”
The full text of Archbishop O’Brien’s talk, “Nuclear Weapons and Moral Questions: The Path to Zero,” can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/nuclearzero.shtml