Jesus calls each of us to a profound interior freedom that is not of this world. It is a freedom that sees through the empty promises of fame, wealth, power and worldly wisdom. It is a freedom that no political system and no human force can take away. It is the freedom of divine love and mercy.
In this week's Second Reading, St. Paul exhorts us, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5.1).
St. Paul is telling us something of utmost importance. He is trying to communicate the reality that we cannot ultimately earn God's love.
Jesus sets us free because God is good. Jesus sets us free because we are powerless without him. Jesus sets us free through the living action of grace, the free gift of divine love at work within us.
We all tend to think we must make God love us. The logic goes like this: If we only perform certain actions in a certain way then God will accept and love us. This is a deadly heresy. St. Paul calls it "the yoke of slavery."
'Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.'
God's love cannot be earned. It must be accepted. It must be received and cooperated with on a daily basis. "We love, because he first loved us" (1 John 4.19).
The love of God is personified in the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John speaks of the Holy Spirit as a stream: "Out of your heart will flow streams of living water" (John 7.37).
We do not produce love. It flows through us. We are not the source and never can be. A stream of living water must flow freely. Our job is to get out of the way.
We are loved here and now. We are loved and we are called to manifest the love of Jesus freely. True freedom is expansion. It is allowing the love of God to expand our hearts to be like the heart of Jesus.
Listen to the wise and prophetic teaching of Pope Francis: "Let us think about this, it is beautiful: God's mercy gives man life, it brings him back from death. The Lord always looks upon us with mercy; let us not forget it. He always looks upon us with mercy, he awaits us with mercy.
"Let us not be afraid to approach him. He has a merciful heart. If we show him our inner wounds, our sins, he will always forgive us. He is pure mercy. Let us go to Jesus."
Are these not life-giving words? Are they not an encouragement to us all?
Mercy is the gift of God's love poured out on those who have not earned it. Mercy expands our vision and knowledge of God by transforming us from within.
Some in the Church today do not want to expand. They want to shrink back into fear. Unknowingly, they want the Church to go into the chains of spiritual slavery.
But love and mercy must expand because God is infinite love and mercy. God is ready to embrace the sinner, welcome the outcast, and heal the broken ones in this lost and stumbling world.
Pope Francis continually reminds us that we are called to a New Evangelization, a radical and ever expanding outreach that embraces the depths of the mercy and love of Jesus. He says, "From the heart of Jesus, the Lamb immolated on the cross, forgiveness and life flows forth to all men."
We must never return to the land of bondage. We must not listen to the misguided who want to turn the Church into a rigid, fear-driven, house of slavery.
The Church is the living sacrament of Jesus, the King of Mercy and Love. We are a people called by name to manifest the authentic heart of Jesus to a broken and suffering world.
Listen to our pope and take to heart the call to freely share the love that never ends. This is the hour when every Catholic and Christian should take a deep new look at Jesus and his teaching. We must learn to live as disciples of Jesus no matter what comes our way.
We must learn to manifest the truth and love of Jesus in all circumstances and situations. This is the road of freedom, a freedom that can never be taken away – the freedom of the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, may we experience your freedom within us daily, and may the living waters of truth and love flow through us freely to all. Amen.