Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

One would think that, in our age in which people seem to speak constantly about freedom, we would know what Paul means when he affirms, “for freedom Christ set us free” (Gal 5:1). If one were to read Paul’s words in light of the ideology of freedom that so dominates our contemporary political discourse, we could imagine that—politically speaking, anyway—Paul is imagining Christ as a sort of liberator who fights for the freedom of his people, so that they can live as they want, without anyone telling them what to do. But Paul is not a post-Enlightenment political theorist, and this is not at all what Paul means when he uses the word “freedom.” Perhaps the problem is that we have confused “freedom” and “independence.” God offers us freedom, not through independence, but through life in him. We find our freedom not by declaring, “I will not serve,” but by responding to God with a heartfelt, “let it be done unto me according to thy word.” God created us to be in relationship with him from the beginning, and it was in this relationship that Adam and Eve found their freedom until the fall, when they asserted their independence. It is noteworthy that throughout salvation history God offers his people freedom: not a freedom that his people can exercise independently, but rather a freedom that grows through the people’s covenant relationship with God. In Christ, it becomes absolutely clear that this covenant with God must be lived out, not by isolating ourselves from our neighbors through an illusory independence, but by being in the only right relationship possible to our neighbors that is fitting once we have been redeemed by the God of love: loving them as we have been loved by God. To insist upon a self-interested and ultimately isolating independence is to reject the freedom that God offers in favor of a slavery to created flesh (i.e. idolatry). In Christ, Paul points to a different way: “do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Gal 5:13-14).

June 26th, 2016