13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We were called to freedom; in today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us that Christ has set us free.  What has Christ set us free from?  Jesus Christ has freed us from the yoke of slavery.  What does that mean?  Prior to our Baptism, each one of us was a slave to sin and to the Devil.  Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, every single human being ever born is born with original sin.  Through the Fall of our First Parents, the entire human race lost its friendship with God and we are not able to restore it: we cannot save ourselves.  It requires a divine intervention to restore what Adam and Eve lost: we stand in need of a Savior.

As a further result of original sin, we all have a fallen human nature; our human nature is weak and it is inclined towards sin: in other words, we are born into spiritual slavery to sin.  Sin separates us from God, and apart from God, we can never be happy: God created us to love Him and to be happy and He loves us too much to leave us in a fallen condition.  God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, Who shed His blood upon the Cross in order to save us from slavery to sin.  Through our Baptism, we are cleansed from original sin and through Baptism we become free: we become children, sons and daughters, of Almighty God.

The freedom that we are talking about in this context is not the same thing as the freedom that we often hear about from the world.  Our society would have us think that freedom means the freedom to do anything I want, as much as I want, whenever I want.  Our culture views freedom as freedom from all restriction: freedom to pursue my every whim and desire.  Yet we have to remember that we have a fallen nature.  It is inclined towards sin: not all of our desires are good.  To indulge every desire to the fullest extent possible is actually bad for us.  Take a simple example: children and candy.  If there is a bag of candy, a child will want to eat the entire bag.  The child will not want to eat anything else except the candy and yet we do not allow the child to eat candy until they have eaten dinner; and even then we should not allow the child to eat the whole bag, lest the child get sick.  Is that taking away the child’s freedom?

Our culture says that real freedom is the ability to eat the entire bag of candy and then buy another bag and eat that one too: freedom to eat candy and nothing but candy to the point of becoming sick.  That is not freedom.  That is slavery to sin.  True freedom is freedom from sin.  Freedom from sin means freedom to control my desires and live the way that I was created to live.  Sin enslaves.  The more we sin, the harder it is to stop sinning.  The more we sin, the further we are from God.  The further we are away from God, the more unhappy we will become.  Sin promises happiness but leaves us miserable.

Jesus Christ came to set us free from that vicious cycle of sin and unhappiness.  When we were baptized, we were set free; yet our free will was not taken away from us.  The Christian life is constant choice that we have to make.  Again and again, each and every day, we have to make choices between God and sin.  We have to stand firm, Saint Paul says, and not submit again to the yoke of slavery.  When we fall into sin, we choose some created thing over God.  When we sin, we choose slavery over freedom.  We are called to live by the Spirit; Saint Paul tells us that the flesh has desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.  The spiritual life is often referred to as warfare.  We have to stand firm, we are called to hold fast to our faith; we have to fight the good fight.  Living out our Faith is not easy, but we draw strength from the Lord.  The Lord has given us the Sacraments to assist us along our journey through this life.  In Baptism, He pours His divine life into our souls; in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, He restores that divine life to us whenever we fall.  In the Eucharist, He feeds us with Himself so that we can be united to Him, and strengthened.  All of the Sacraments are opportunities to draw closer to and be united with Our Lord, and that is the purpose of our very existence.

Jesus died so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly.  He wants to set us free from sin; He wants to fill us with peace and joy.  He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts and by so doing find the happiness that we are all long for.  His desire is that we give Him our whole heart, and only when we have done so, will we ever find fulfillment.  Our hearts are restless, until they rest in God.

How do we give our hearts to Him?  First: reject sin.  Renew today the promise made on the day of your Baptism: refuse to be mastered by sin.  Break sinful habits.  Breaking free from sin requires effort and God’s grace.  Yet we will never be happy until we are freed from sin.  Second: surrender yourself entirely to Jesus Christ.  Surrender everything.  Give Him your hopes and your fears.  Give Him your thoughts and desires.  Give Him your temptations and sins.  Offer it all to Him.  Give Him everything that is in your heart.  Ask Him to take your heart and to purify it of all that is not pleasing to Him.  Renew that total offering of yourself every day in prayer.  This is a not an easy thing to do: we all like to be in control of our own lives; our nature is inclined towards sin and pride.  Only when we turn away from sin and surrender our hearts to Jesus Christ will we find true freedom, real joy and peace.  God wants us to be happy, and He is the source of all true happiness.

Let us ask Him to help us to give our hearts to Him.  Lord, Jesus, help us to see sin for what it really is: slavery.  Inspire in our hearts true hatred for our sins and help us to live in the true freedom that we are called to.  Help us, Lord, to give our hearts entirely to You.  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, enflame our hearts with love of You.  Amen.

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