Tag Archives: freedom

Freedom!

24 Jun

calling of disciplesHow well do you use your freedom? The greatest choice we can make daily is to follow Jesus Christ and share His love with others.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus invites people to do this, but they offer various excuses as to why they cannot choose the path of discipleship, or at least why they need to put off the decision until they can take care of other important things.

Isn’t this the lot of family life? Daily, Jesus desires to share joy with us, but we are quick with excuses, or we are so distracted that we do not even hear the invitation to encounter Him.

Whether it is stress at work, the busyness of family life, the television, the cell phone, the computer, sports, music, or hurting relationships keeping us from a deeper relationship with Jesus, let’s pray for the grace to make Him the top priority of our marriages and families. He awaits us with open arms!

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Why We Care About Marriage (Part 4)

2 Sep

winding road CCHeaven!

It is what we all desire in the depths of our existence. Every longing we experience finds its fulfillment in heaven. Every joy in this life is but a sign of what is to come in eternity. When a joy we experience passes away, we’re reminded that we’re not yet in heaven, where our joy will never end.

Imagine going to a party and not having to leave at the end, but being able to stay at the party with all of your closest friends and family. This is kind of what heaven will be like, except we tend to interpret heaven from our own limited human experience. We think that if heaven is some sort of party that never ends, then eventually we will get bored.

Heaven is not quite like that; it is not an endless succession of days where we have to find something to do. It is more like a fixed moment of joy that is locked into our very existence–for in heaven, there is no time.

Believe it or not, one of the greatest insights we can gain into this eternal existence is by contemplating the mystery of marriage.

Married couples are a sign of God’s existence in heaven, as the Church is wedded to Christ for all of eternity. Heaven is depicted in Sacred Scripture as a wedding feast. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. God uses this analogy to help us understand the eternal joy we will experience in heaven.

Let’s face it, wedding receptions are joyous occasions, and He is trying to awaken us to this reality. The Lord is saying, “If you think weddings are fun on earth, wait until you get here!”  And that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a passionately loving couple who are approaching their wedding day. They simply cannot wait to give themselves as a gift to one another at the altar and also to consummate that relationship through the conjugal act.  The joy the couple experiences through the total self-donation of intercourse is intended to be a foretaste of the bliss of participating in the union of Christ and His Bride for all eternity. This may make us blush, but it is God who came up with this analogy to describe what our experience of joy will be like in heaven.

In the Catholic Tradition, we call heaven the “beatific vision.” This description helps us understand that we, the Bride of Christ, will see Christ, the Bridegroom, face to face for all of eternity in a loving, passionate stare. As we gaze in the vision of our Savior, we are filled with His love. His love penetrates us and fills us with His very life. Having received His life, we now have a worthy gift to return to Him, and so, having received, we can now give in return a pleasing gift.

Does that description of the beatific vision sound like anything that a husband and wife experience in their earthly marriage? It should. The marital embrace of husband and wife, where the husband gives his seed of life to his wife and she takes that seed into herself and offers it in return in the conception and bringing forth of new life, is the earthly window where we catch a glimpse of the eternal embrace of Christ and His Bride!

This is but a tiny glimpse of the beautiful vision of marriage that the Church holds out to her children. So, for us it is not a matter of debating whether to change the definition of marriage. We do not believe we have the power to change what we did not create. It is not for us to change; it is for us to understand and live.

Marriage is not an entity unto itself, but it represents the One who created it because He wanted to communicate the truth and beauty of His loving reality. Is it any wonder that as marriage has declined over the past several decades that we have also seen a rise in atheism? I believe they are connected. It makes sense that as we can no longer see the sign as clearly as we should, we cannot recognize what the sign points to. It is like trying to reach a destination without having the proper signs to guide the way. Can you imagine if you went on a road trip and did not have a map, or GPS, or any road signs to tell you if you were on the right path?  It may feel like an adventure at first, but it would soon turn into a frustrating ordeal. In this scenario, it would be surprising if we ever reach our destination.

I think that is what our culture is experiencing. Our society has set out on an excursion and has left all points of guidance behind. The culture thinks it is on an exciting experience of unbridled freedom and happiness, but it will eventually lead to frustration and despair. I am speaking about every form of deprivation of the truth and beauty of matrimony that I have mentioned in this series.

For us married couples, it is our duty to be the sign we are intended to be for the sake of others. When we do that, we will experience joy beyond belief, because we will be living our purpose in life, which is to lead others to Christ. I invite all married couples to intentionally focus on being the sign they are called to be in order to change the culture.  Living our mission as married couples is the most effective way to awaken our culture to the beauty of marriage. To paraphrase St. Catherine of Sienna, if we were who we were created to be, we would set the world on fire!

Why We Care About Marriage (Part 3)

26 Aug

As we discussed in the previous post, marriage is a sign of God as the eternal exchange of love before time began.  Marriage represents this truth because the husband and wife commit and give themselves as a gift to each other. The married couple images God as a communion of persons.  God’s wisdom in establishing marriage as a union between one man and one woman did not stop with signifying Him “as it was in the beginning.” Marriage also signifies God as He “is now.” We have come to experience and know God through time, and so this is the second aspect I would like to explore.

Marriage is a sign of God’s loving existence during time.  In fact, St. Paul reminds us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent His son . . .” (Gal. 4:4).  Every sacramentally married couple is called to be a sign of Christ’s love for the Church.  By the way a married couple loves each other, they bear witness to the reality that God is a God who is passionately in love with His People, faithful to His promises, and generously merciful and life-giving.

In fact, this truth is at the core of the vows that the bride and groom exchange at the altar. The vows are what establish the sacrament. No vows, no sacrament. The couple has to promise to love each other in the same way that Christ loves the Church. If they are not willing to do that , then they do not become a sacrament.  Let’s look at those vows more intently.

If you have not been to a Catholic wedding recently, let me refresh your memory.  The priest or deacon who is officiating the wedding asks the couple three questions.  The couple is asked is they have come freely.  Next, the couple is asked if they promise to be faithful to one another, and finally, the couple is asked if they will be fruitful and receive children lovingly from God.  Freely, faithfully, and fruitfully are the three hallmarks of Christ’s love for the Church, so for Her part, the Church is doing its due diligence to make sure the couple is not being tricked in any way.  The Church is essentially asking the couple, “Do you want to be a sacrament?  Do you want to be a sign of Christ’s love for the Church?  If you do, we will proceed to the exchange of the vows.” Continue reading

Complete Joy

2 May

complete joyIn today’s Gospel (John 15:9-11), Our Lord tells us something for the explicit purpose of imparting His joy to us, so that our “joy might be complete.” What was this joy-producing message? It was this:

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

The connection between keeping the commandments and loving God is a recurring theme in the biblical writings of St. John, and in this particular instance we hear it from the Lord Himself, with the motive that we might be filled with joy.

A few years ago I told my then six-year-old son Samuel that he was developing into a fine young Christian man, and that I thought that he was about ready to make his First Confession. I told him, however, that in order to make a good Confession, he would have to know the commandments. He replied, “I know them already.” I was justifiably skeptical, so I asked him what they were. He answered: “Obey your parents, don’t pick your nose, listen to your teacher . . .”

Obviously Sam still needed a little work (and a handkerchief).

But in our own lives as adults, do we experience the observance of the commandments as simply following a bunch of arbitrary rules, or as the means of discovering the complete joy that the Lord wants to give us?

In creating us in His image and likeness, God gave us free will and expects us to use it well. He doesn’t coerce us to love Him and follow His commandments.

Human freedom is widely misunderstood today, as many understand freedom as existing apart from the truth about God and about human nature. The discussion surrounding Jason Collins’ “coming out” this week is but one example. Freedom has become a very personal, exclusively subjective reality that boils down to the ability to do whatever I might feel like doing at a particular time, apart from the “rightness” or the “goodness” of such choices. This, of course, is not authentic human freedom, but mere license or whim.

And so Our Lord today reminds us that obeying the commandments does not involve a renunciation of freedom. Rather, it involves the exercise of freedom to do good, rather than evil. This wise use of our freedom results in our loving God and neighbor, and brings us “complete joy.” Sounds like a ”win win” situation to me!

Beyond the Buzzwords

12 Oct

Yesterday’s post noted that “social justice” can be two things. Sometimes it refers to authentic Church teaching, and other times it’s a politically charged buzzword. Further, these two meanings are blended just enough these days to cause considerable–at times calculated–confusion.

Here are just a few examples of “social justice” terms and how they are sometimes misused:

Human rights and human dignity belong to each and every person by virtue of their being created in the image and likeness of God, and upon the natural law. Some now assert that such rights and dignity are determined (or taken away) by the state or the “will of the people.”

Freedom reaches its perfection in seeking what is true and good, which ultimately leads one to God. Some now define “freedom” as the license to do whatever one feels like doing (as long as it involves “consenting adults” and isn’t “illegal”), without regard to truth, goodness, or God.

Truth involves correspondence to objective reality. Some now claim that “truth” is merely a relative term that can vary from person to person. In the process, many people today deny objective truth, particularly in the moral realm.

Common good refers to the good of the entire community, as the proper object of a just law, which nonetheless presupposes respect for the individual person (cf. CCC 1907). Some now equate the promotion of the common good to the redistribution of wealth, entitlement programs, and an exaggerated deference to the federal government.

Culture of life derives from Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. While it provides a coherent presentation of the range of life issues, the document hones in on abortion and euthanasia as the key issues of our time. Some use “life” or “culture of life” (without meaning anything in particular) to give credence to their position, even as they persist in their permissive position on abortion and other non-negotiable moral issues.

Development involves access to the basic necessities of life, especially for the poor. Some use “development,” consciously or otherwise, as code for exporting—or even imposing when necessary—American secular values, most notably an anti-natalist agenda.

Other examples would include “equality,” “solidarity,” and even “family.”