Freedom of the Children of God
Last week we considered how our calling to freedom confers human dignity and enables us to love, and to do good or evil. Fr. Fernando Ocariz, the Prelate of Opus Dei, recently wrote a wonderful pastoral letter on freedom:
“In calling each of us into existence, God has made us able to choose and to love the good, and to respond with love to his Love. Nevertheless, our limitation as creatures makes it possible for us to separate ourselves from God. “It is a mystery of divine Wisdom that, when creating man in his image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-29), God wanted to run the sublime ‘risk’ of human freedom.”*
In fact, at the dawn of history this risk led to the rejection of God’s Love through the original sin. Thus… [human freedom] was weakened, and… inclined towards sin. Afterwards, personal sins weaken human freedom even more, and therefore sin always implies, to a greater or lesser degree, a form of slavery (cf. Romans 6:17, 20). Nevertheless, “man always remains free” (Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, n24). While “his freedom is always fragile” (ibid.), it remains an essential good of each human person and must be protected. God is the first to respect and love it, since he “does not want slaves, but children.”*
… Grace gives rise to a new and higher freedom for which “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1)… I often remind you that we need to put Christ at the center of our lives. To discover the deepest meaning of freedom, we have to contemplate him. We are amazed to see the freedom of a God who, out of pure love, decides to abase himself by taking on flesh like ours. We see this freedom unfold throughout his steps on earth towards the sacrifice of the Cross. “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17-18). Human history has never witnessed an act as deeply free as our Lord’s self-giving on the Cross. “He gives himself up to death with the full freedom of Love.”*
… Jesus’ words resound with a clear promise: “Veritas liberabit vos, the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). “How great a truth is this,” St. Josemaría writes, “which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives… It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father. I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men.”*
Our divine filiation enables our freedom to expand with all the strength that God has bestowed on it. It is not by emancipating ourselves from the Father’s house that we become free, but rather by embracing the reality that we are sons or daughters. “Anyone who does not realize that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself.”* Such a person is unaware of who he is and lives in conflict with himself. How liberating it is, then, to know that God loves us. How liberating is God’s pardon that allows us to return to ourselves and to our true home (cf. Luke 15:17-24). And when we pardon others, we also experience this liberation.
Our faith in God’s love for each one of us (cf. 1 John 4:16) leads us to respond with love. We can love because he has loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:10). It fills us with security to know that God’s infinite Love is to be found not only at the origin of our existence but also at every moment in our lives. For God is closer to us than we are to ourselves (Cf. St. Augustine, Confessions, 3.6.11)… Giving love to God and to others is the most proper act of freedom. Love fulfills freedom, it redeems it. Love enables freedom to discover its origin and goal in God’s Love…
Our sense of divine filiation leads, then, to great interior freedom, to deep joy, and to the serene optimism of hope: spe gaudentes (Romans 12:12). Realizing we are God’s children also leads us to love the world, which came forth good from the hands of our Father God. It leads us to face life with the clear awareness that it is possible to do good, to conquer sin, and to bring the world to God» (Fr. Fernando Ocáriz, Pastoral Letter, January 9, 2018, n2-n4. * marks quotes from St. Josemaría).
Fr. John R. Waiss
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