3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

God created man and woman in His own image and likeness. God made us for Himself; He made us to know Him and to love Him and to be happy with Him forever. Ever since sin entered the world, knowing and loving God has become more difficult. Sin darkens our understanding. The more we sin the less we realize the negative effects that it has upon us. Have you ever done something and then thought: “That was stupid, why did I do/say that?” Sin makes it harder to know Truth. Sin makes it more difficult to think clearly.

Sin also weakens our will. Once a sin is committed, it is easier to sin again. The first time someone commits a serious sin, they feel really bad about it. The second time, they might only feel a little bad about it. Eventually, they have a hard time feeling bad about the sin at all, even though they know that sin is wrong. Or they might even convince themselves that the sin isn’t really a sin; with a weakened will and a darkened intellect it becomes easy to justify all sorts of sinful behavior.
When we justify sin and refuse to repent, we start down a very slippery slope. Eventually small sins can lead to bigger sins. When a sin goes un-repented and is repeated often it easily becomes a habit, and habits are very difficult to break; and in this way, a person can become a slave to sin. Sin enslaves and leads to misery because sin separates us from God and we can never be really happy apart from God.

Our culture today will tell you that the opposite is true. Society will tell you that our Catholic Faith is just a man-made set of rules that is put together in order to control you. Just the reverse is true. First of all, our Faith is not invented: God revealed it to us Himself in Jesus Christ. Second: it is only in Jesus Christ that we have real freedom. True freedom is not about doing whatever I want whenever I want as much as I want. True freedom means being free to choose right and reject wrong. True freedom enables me to live as I was created to live: as a child of God. If someone has developed a sinful habit, they are not really free. Many people find it very difficult to break out of sinful habits, even when they realize that the sinful habit is making them unhappy.

Ever since sin entered the world, God has promised a Savior: One Who would save us from sin. The people of Jesus’ day had been waiting for that Savior for thousands of years. Every Prophet of the Old Testament predicted His coming. Everything in the Old Testament pointed forward to the day when God would send a Savior. The people prayed and longed for that Savior to come and set them free. Once we understand that cultural context, we can better understand what a dramatic scene today’s Gospel must have been. Try to imagine it: the synagogue was full of people. Jesus was handed a scroll; He opened it and read the passage that we just heard. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . He has anointed me to bring glad tidings . . . He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives . . . to let the oppressed go free . . . to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” The people were undoubtedly familiar with those passages; they knew that those prophecies that Jesus had read, from the Book of Isaiah, were prophecies about that long-awaited, promised Savior. Then Jesus told the crowd that what was promised from the beginning of the human race and throughout the Old Testament, was fulfilled in their presence that day. The Savior that was looked-for for thousands of years was right there in their presence. Jesus was telling them that He, Himself, is the one that they had been waiting for. He is the Savior; He has come at last to set them and us free. Imagine how excited the people must have been. At long last, there would be freedom!

Now the people of Jesus’ day misunderstood what that liberty that Jesus proclaimed meant. They were hoping to be set free from political oppression. In another place in the Gospel, we know that the crowd wanted to take Jesus and make Him king. Jesus doesn’t want to be king of a country; He wants to be King of each person’s heart. Jesus came to free us from the spiritual oppression of sin and eternal death. Jesus Christ came to show us the way to God so that we can live in the way that we were created to live: as sons and daughters of God.

Jesus came so that we can have life and have it in abundance. He came to fully revealed God to us. Jesus showed us how much God loves us by dying for us. Jesus gave us the Sacraments and the Church to assist us on our journey; they are gifts that Jesus gave to us that help us grow closer to God. We have all heard people say that they want to live life to the full; and by that, they mean all sorts of different things. Jesus Christ says that He is the Life. He still offers that freedom that we heard about in the Gospel to us. Jesus wants us to be free from sin. He wants to give us the grace to break out of sinful habits. He wants to liberate us from slavery to sin so that we can live in the way that we were created to live: with hearts full of love for God and for others.

Through regular use of the Sacraments and through prayer, we can achieve that freedom that we were all created for. When we love God with all our hearts, and others as ourselves, then we will find true freedom and fulfillment. We need to root sin out of our lives to make a more acceptable dwelling place in our hearts for our God. God wants all of our heart; and our hearts will always be restless until they rest in God. Let us ask God to help us to live and love as we were created to: Lord Jesus Christ, help us to love you with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Help us to love others for love of You. Give us the grace, Lord, to root sin out of our lives and to live in the freedom for which you created us. May we make of our hearts an acceptable dwelling place for You. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine. Amen.