I want to be fully free
A question that I often get asked by students and adults alike is, ‘how can I actually keep from sinning, from committing the same sins over and over again! They passionately and sincerely express desire to know the freedom that is promised in scripture.
There is no doubt, for anyone that has read scripture, that Christ sets us free, and would like us to stay that way. He’d like us to continue to being free from sin so as to avoid ‘backsliding’ and grow in holiness. He would like us to be holy and stay holy. Seems like an impossible task! But what kind of God sets before us a call to what is impossible? Certainly not the God that we believe in. Our God calls as to be holy and promises that with our cooperation, God’s grace will get us there.
So let’s focus on our part of this effort. There’s good news! We can cut the goal into realistic and reachable portions. So how do we do that one day, one week at a time.
Now you’re rooted in keeping your focus on Jesus and now you can be more sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is trying to guide you every single day. It’s really just one day at a time. Don’t look back to the ‘stuff’ that you’ve been freed from, rejoice in a brighter future. Whoever and whatever it is that makes you a slave to sin, walk away. If you need help, get some. Embrace the freedom and love that you were made for. Count your blessings every night and thank God for one more day, every morning.
Over time you’ll begin to notice the changes in you, your relationships and that you are more fully free than ever before. You’ll be able to say, even though I’m still struggling with overcoming a particular sin or temptation, by the grace of God, personal effort, prayer and prayerful support of others… I am living victory because I am better than before, stronger than before. I have a victory attitude, not a victim attitude!
You only have to think about it one day, one week at a time. Isn’t that much more encouraging? Of course, if you happen to have really slipped so far back, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can catch you and bring you back to solid ground and freedom.
Freedom in Christ
Saint Paul, in Chapter 5 of the letter to the Galatians, speaks of freedom and calls for total commitment to Christ which is to be lived in total freedom. Many people don’t understand the nature of the freedom of which he speaks, so here’s a short summary on the nature of our freedom in Christ.
We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were free. We fell from this original state of grace and entered into the fallen state of by original sin, which in their birth, no person escapes. Due to original sin, we, in our fallen state are inclined to sin. Christ died to set us free from sin. If I have died in Christ then I rise in Christ, freed to fulfill the call to holiness. To remain free and unbound by sin, we need grace.
Nature of Our Freedom
Created in the image and likeness of God, we have a deep desire to know and a great capacity to understand. Freedom in fact, pre supposes Knowledge of the Truth (“the truth will set you free” John 8:32) and ignorance is an obstacle to freedom. We need God’s grace to be and to remain free.
Grace allows for the full exercise of human freedom, the proper use of which, enables a person to gradually align his will with God’s. As this happens, a person experiences increased perfection of intellect, allowing him to determine good from evil and free will increases in ability to Choose between Good and Evil. As the person chooses more frequently the good, they increase in perfection. However, continued choosing of evil increases the chains of sin that bind and further disables the person from recognizing, choosing and being able to do the good.
God’s created us Free and in Christ, God frees us once more. We cannot blame God for the human evils that find their origins in the abuse of our freedom. We are not puppets on a sting attached to a stick in the hand of God. Original freedom and freedom in Christ is Never Free from Responsibility. To abuse our freedom is to sin because in doing so, we are acting contrary to our nature which is against the will of God. Human freedom is ordered toward good, it is rooted in the moral obligation to do the good.
To understand more about Grace: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c3a2.htm
To understand more about Freedom: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a3.htm
Father's Day 2016
On Father’s Day we celebrate and we pray for all our Dads; the Fathers who are saints, the ones who are on their way, and the ones who struggle every day.
The moment your child is conceived you become a Father. What matters after that moment, is when you become a Dad. When you become a man who understands what this profound responsibility means. Whether you prepared for fatherhood, or found your way to it through poor decisions… what will you do now? Embracing your fatherhood and becoming a good Dad doesn’t mean you’ll be a perfect Dad right away and it doesn’t mean that you’ll understand what a perfect Dad is, right away. But it does mean that you commit to becoming what your child (ren) needs and deserves… and what God expects and will help you become.
Thankfully you will have your own God the Father to help you understand, grow and become someone your children can and will celebrate on Father’s Day. Thankfully, you will have good examples in the fathers, grandfathers, uncles and spiritual fathers who will guide you, teach you and challenge you. Some men are, by grace, very ready to for this profoundly important role. Some men are far from ready. But all men have the opportunity to receive what they need and to be formed. If you’re a father, but you have deep regrets or you’re still struggling… there’s hope.
God, if you’re open and if you ask, if you listen and if you’re humble, God will be there for you. God is deeply interested in your becoming a great Dad. It is you who will image Him to your children through your words and actions. It is you who will reveal the heart of THE FATHER as you embrace, discipline, teach, protect, provide, empower and especially lead your children in faith.
I think there are few times in life that demonstrate real and profound change in a person’s life than a conversion sparked by a real encounter with God. When a man becomes a father with his first child. At that moment, when becoming a father is truly recognized, it’s like finding yourself at the threshold of a momentous change and entering into a whole new world. When your child is born, it’s a moment of undeniable grace, hearts bursting with love, wonder and awe. It’s an encounter with God and a call to embrace a call to ever deeper transformation and relationship with God the Father, His SON and the Holy Spirit of love between them.
The Saints of Fatherhood, humbly and happily pass over the threshold and become more like Christ; protectors of the truth, teachers of moral character, stable, strong, loving and merciful. They learn what it means to calm a storm, and not to be creators of storms in the lives of others. They learn what it means to serve the needs of others, and not demand that others serve them. They learn the importance of wisdom over wisecracks and sacrifice over selfishness. They listen to God the Father. Faith is their stronghold; Christ is their model.
Your children deserve the best. May God help all men to receive the virtues and the grace to become the men God calls us to be!
Walking out on Christ
I don’t think this is a particular issue for young or older Catholics, but the temptation might be much greater among today’s youth and young adults. For the past few decades and with increasing intensity, the broad culture of North America encourages desires for instant gratification, image / video dependent, value assessment according to entertainment value, headline news and 140 character ‘get to the point’ expectations. Not to mention, in Campus Ministry, there is a tendency to cater to the students desires along these lines, which further distances them from having realistic expectations of the average North American Parish community. There just won’t be any 10 pm Masses on Sunday night and a team of people dedicated to making sure they stay engaged. Engagement that may or may not have at its center, meaningful, lasting, and life changing ‘encounters with Christ’.
I grew up in the ‘70s and it was a vastly different world than now, however, I was no, less than today’s youth / young adults, not interested in speeches that droned on, teachers that could never get to the point and preachers who seemed completely out of teach with reality. I also had an appreciation for being entertained, albeit with strong expectations for substance and quality content. In my years as an adult lay catholic, I’ll be honest, I experienced the temptation to walk out of the church during Mass more than once and on at least one occasion I fell to the temptation.
Reasons for walking out? They could be highly personal definitions of bad preaching, bad music, likability of the priest, the long announcements, the requests for money, the place of the tabernacle, the perceived ‘orthodoxy’ of the pastor / faith community… etc, etc, etc. A list as varied and many as the folks in the pews I’m sure. Some reasons might be objectively real and need to be addressed. Many, are likely borne of our cultural formation as consumers, who are always right and if our complaints or criticisms aren’t addressed to our satisfaction… we walk, in protest.
Why would anyone continue to attend unsatisfying liturgies? Why shouldn’t we walk out? Isn’t that better than mentally ‘checking out’ or grabbing the smart phone and checking facebook, pretending that my kids need my attention or…?
The answer, I think, rests upon the nature of the celebration and that which is at the center. In the section on the Eucharist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (sections 1324-25, 1409, 1413, 1416-1419) we are reminded of the answers.
In the section on the liturgy, the Eucharistic Celebration (1326, 1408, 1410) in particular, it says:
It seems that, being faithful disciples of Christ who believe that the Eucharist we receive during the celebration and that by our action affirms our communion, we would not ever ‘walk out’ of the Eucharistic Celebration for any other reason than an emergency of some sort.
If I don’t believe these things, then it’s all a matter of personal preference according to my own opinions. It would make sense to leave.
The truth of the matter is simple. Coming to know and understand that truth, not so simple. If it were, these words might not have been spoken (Of course, reading the whole of John 6 would be better than just reading the quotes below):
I pray that as more and more members of Christs Body the Church ‘become what we touch’, our Eucharistic Celebrations will become more perfectly what they ought to be. However, there should be no doubt among the faithful that neither bad preaching, uninspiring music, unenthusiastic reading, lack of communal participation or anything of the sort, will change what the Eucharist is or the grace received by a believer who says with Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Forgiveness is essential in life. All of us need to be forgiven. All of us will have an opportunity to forgive others. We know, in our hearts and in our quiet moments of truth, that all of the above is true, but it’s tricky business and most of us find it exceedingly difficult to be forgiving and to ask for or receive forgiveness. Some of us never come to God or others for forgiveness because we think we aren’t ‘good’ enough to be forgiven. Others think it’s right to withhold forgiveness because the other person is just ‘to bad’, or hurt us too deeply.
It’s always true to say that we are supposed become more and more like Jesus, who is completely forgiving. It’s also true to say that that is considerably easier said than done! One way to become a more forgiving person is to spend time on our personal spiritual lives. There are a few ways that are simple to do, and just require an increase in time commitment to our relationship with God. Yes, more time devoted to growing in faith is necessary and yes, you can re-organize your priorities in order to achieve your faith life goals.
As we grow in our relationship with God and we become more spiritually healthy through the above practices, we become more like Jesus in every way. Slowly over time, we will notice that we seek, offer and are able to receive forgiveness in a much more Christ like manner. We’ll also notice that life is less stressful, priorities are more about what’s right and good in God than about things that make us temporarily happy or satisfied. We’ll become more loving and therefore more forgiving. We will increasingly reflect the image of God to others.
Do we really want to miss out on the gifts and graces of God just because we prefer a life of one crisis after another, bearing grudges that darken our hearts, controlling others through anger, intimidation or destructive words? Don’t we all want to experience true freedom from inner turmoil? Just like with dieting, wanting to be healthier is the first step but we have to ACT in order to lose the ‘excess unhealthy baggage’ we carry around.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.