“One who is truly free can speak her mind and act in accordance with God’s call, even in the face of fear.”
During the 2008 election season, my family engaged in a lively e-mail exchange where we debated who would become our nation’s next president. Interestingly, some of the greatest insights came from my sister-in-law who witnessed the fall of communism in her homeland of Bulgaria and was sworn in as a U.S. citizen only a year ago. She reminded all of us that freedom is not something that comes easily, nor is it something that we should take for granted.
For many people, freedom is associated with the right to vote, free speech and the opportunity to live and work in a democratic society. Freedom is more than carefree living, creative self-expression and the absence of war. Freedom does not entitle us to do “whatever we want.” When we are truly free, we are compelled to act in accordance with our deepest values and inner truth. Freedom is the deep and abiding sense that we are loved and accepted, which allows us to make choices consistent with God’s call for our life.
How do we become free?
Freedom is often impeded by fear. Our freedom of speech is hindered when there is fear of rejection or criticism. Our longing to follow our wildest dreams can be halted by a fear of failure or pressure to meet someone else’s expectations. Our freedom is threatened anytime we forget that we are loved. Those who are truly free have nothing to prove. All that we have, and all that we are, is enough. We become free when we are able to face our fears, name past resentments and forgive our enemies. One who is truly free can speak her mind and act in accordance with God’s call, even in the face of fear.
Setting others free
Pope John Paul II once said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Freedom is not something that we keep to ourselves. The gift of freedom gives us the right to protect the poor and vulnerable, to stand up for those who have no voice and give back to those in need. There are many in our country and in our world who do not know the same freedoms that we have. Consider those who are burdened by grief, constrained by tough economic times or homebound because of illness or age. How can I share the gift of freedom with them? How can I use the gift of freedom to create positive change for our society?
Prayers for peace
At my church in Chicago, we often pray for people in war-torn countries and especially for members of our armed services. Last week after Mass, I ran into a friend who works for a local military hospital. He said, “I know that people in my neighborhood disagree on issues of foreign policy. Yet whenever I wear my uniform in public I am regularly surprised by smiles, handshakes and random acts of kindness. People respect what I do for a living and that means a lot to me.” Likewise, there are many parents, siblings and spouses who worry about their loved ones overseas. The next time you see them, offer a kind word of support.
The middle of summer is punctuated with a long July 4 holiday weekend. Whether you celebrate with picnics, fireworks, baseball or boat rides, it is a great time to reflect on the gift of freedom that rests at the heart of American life.
How will you celebrate freedom this Independence Day? Share your thoughts by clicking on Contact Us
Thursday, July, 2, 2009