Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is Freedom?

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July here in the United States, our minds are filled with verses from God bless America, or the Star spangled Banner. We savor the barbeques, cook-outs, going to the lake, gathering as family, fireworks, parades, and the list goes on. We also recall the sacrifice of the many military members through the years who have fought bravely so that we could continue to call ourselves “a free people”. There is a sense of pride to be an American on this day marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Although a controversy ensues regarding some Christian expressions from the Founding Fathers when forming our great nation, we can nevertheless understand that these men came from a background based on the values of Western Civilization which finds its roots in Christianity. John Adams once stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And Noah Webster recalled: "The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles...to this we owe our free constitutions of government." So perhaps today we could ask ourselves: What the true meaning of liberty and freedom?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen can shed some light on this question. In his book: “Go to Heaven” he tells us: “ Freedom is not in liberation from truth, but in the acceptance of truth. I am free to draw a triangle only on condition that I accept the truth of the triangle, and give it three sides, and not in a stroke of broadmindedness give it thirty-three sides. This is what Our Lord meant when He said: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32) And he continues: “Faith will preserve your freedom. You still live in a world in which you are free to ask questions. Turning Our Blessed Lord's words around, they mean that if you do not know the Truth, you will be enslaved. If you do not know the truth about addition or subtraction, you will not be free to do your bookkeeping; if you do not know that zebras have stripes, you will not be free to draw them. If you do not know the truth of the nature of man, you will not be free to act as a man.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 1731 “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.
1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."28
1734 Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.

As we celebrate this great American holiday, let us be grateful to God for our country and realize that in directing our lives toward Him and acting responsibly, we contribute to the building up of our nation. God bless America

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