Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ’You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.  (John 8:31-36)

For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

Our Christian faith is often paradoxical.  A lowly carpenter’s boy from Nazareth turns out to be the Son of God.  Jesus tells us that in God’s Kingdom, the last will be first and the first will be last.  On another occasion he says that if we try to save our lives, we will lose them, but if we lose our lives for his sake, we will find them.  Jesus also tells his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.” (Mk 10:43)  In the end, the message of the Cross looks like foolishness to the world, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. (I Cor.1:18)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is talking about slavery and freedom.  The paradox here is that true freedom involves not doing whatever we please but surrendering ourselves to Christ, giving up the things of this world that we idolize, and living steeped in God’s word.  The Lord’s audience protests that they’ve never been slaves.  (I guess they’ve forgotten about their years in Egypt and Babylon.) Jesus responds that anyone who commits sin is a slave. 

If Jesus were having this conversation with us today, I think it would take a different turn.  We would be fixated on the concept of freedom.   In our culture, freedom of the individual is one of the most highly prized values.  I can imagine the scornful looks and curled lips at the notion that freedom might mean giving up or surrendering anything.  Freedom 21st century, American-style means I have the right to express myself any way I want to.  It means I can say anything I choose.  I can do whatever makes me feel good at the moment.  Somehow, I don’t think this is what the founders of our country had in mind, and I am sure our views on freedom simply prove Jesus’ point about our being enslaved to sin and the ways of the world.

In his latest newsletterFr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, in a meditation on Jesus before Pilate, writes that “…through submission to the God of heaven (Jesus) escaped the power of the gods of earth.”  That’s what real freedom is.  To be free in Christ, what idols do you still need to give up?

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