Sunday, July 05, 2009

Freedom and Fireworks in Skagway Alaska

Left: Fireworks over Skagway, AK.

Freedom and Prophecy

Rick Malloy, S.J.
Notes from Homily for 14th Sunday, Year B, 2009, Skagway Alaska

A guy forgets his wife’s birthday. A few weeks later he forgets their anniversary. She is mad. He repeatedly apologizes, but no go. He’s still getting the cold shoulder, and every time he asks her how things are going she says, “Fine.” All guys know when a women says things are “Fine”… he’s in trouble. Finally he says, “Look. I’m sorry. What can I do to make it up to you? What do I have to do so we can get back on track?” She’s been wanting a car so she says, "Well, you could put something in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in six seconds.” So the next day she sees an envelop in the driveway. She runs out, rips it open, and reads, "Your gift is in the garage." She opens the garage door looking for a new car. Instead she finds a bathroom scale. … We’re told he’ll get out of the hospital in another week or two… Let me play the prophet and tell you: Don’t give your wife a bathroom scale…

Today we’re called to reflect on the relationship between Freedom and Prophecy. Happy July 4th. This weekend our county celebrates our freedoms (FDR’s four freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from want and Freedom from fear).

Cardinal Rigali was approached by a worried college student who awkwardly asked, “Should I, like, kiss your ring?" The Cardinal, putting the student at ease replied, “The essence of our faith is the freedom of the children of God.” Christ calls us to freedom (“For Freedom Christ has set us free,” Gal 5:1)

You can do anything you want. But that’s not FREEDOM; that’s LICENSE. You are not free to do things that are dumb, dangerous, and deadly. DON’T GET YOUR WIFE A BATHROOM SCALE AS A JOKE! Don’t think, “I’m a free person, so I can drink a half gallon of vodka a day.” You are not free to drive on the left side of the road. Freedom for the follower of Christ is all about choosing what is loving and lasting. Freedom is all about choosing all that is sane and smart.

Freedom is not doing whatever you want. True Freedom is wanting to do what you ought to do. Freedom open to the influence of grace means that we find in ourselves the power to want to do what we ought to do. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that Grace is the ability to do what you could not do before. If little boys don’t develop the freedom to take a shower every day, by the time they are 13 no one wants to sit next to them (If you didn’t know the smelly kid in school… maybe you were the smelly kid!). If you don’t develop the freedom to study and learn, you’ll never graduate from school. If we don’t learn the freedom of discipline, our lives become chaotic and out of control. Addictions reign in our lives and soul. If our political and social and economic orders don’t learn discipline and true freedom, our society runs off the rails.

We are called to freedom for love and the common good and to open our hearts to all that creates the good and builds up the community. We are called to discipline ourselves for freedom from all that destroys and diminishes us. We are called to open our hearts to the freedom that makes for a world of peace and prosperity, justice and joy, faith and freedom, hope and healing, love and life and life eternal.

There is a connection between prophecy and freedom

Prophecy and Jesus as Prophet:

Biblical prophets were not those who foretold the future (no one can foretell the future. If someone claims they can, ask them for next week's lottery numbers). Biblical prophets were those who announced in the present what has to be freely chosen and done in light of the truth of the future. Prophets articulated programs and actions on the personal and social levels that would get us to the desired future.

Jesus was a prophet. In the light of the coming Kingdom of God, he told us, and tells us, what we need to do and where we need to go in order to get to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of “truth and life; holiness and grace; justice, love and peace” (Preface of Christ the King).

We need to discern between true and false prophets. There are too many screaming and yelling and pretending they know what the future holds. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann… are those two on the same planet? Do we follow those who, like Rush Limbaugh, starkly state they want our leaders to fail? Do we listen only to those who say what is wrong? Or are we free to carefully evaluate the plans and ideas offered and ready to join together to work to solve the problems we face?

The Church does not tell people for whom to vote, nor on whose side they ought to be in political debates (see the U.S. Catholic Bishops' website Faithful Citizenship). But Americans of all political persuasions should agree with what President Obama said on the 4th of July: “We Americans don’t fear the future; we make the future.”

Vatican II and Freedom

FROM THE DECLARATION ON HUMAN FREEDOM (DIGNITATIS HUMANAE PERSONAE). “8. Many pressures are brought to bear upon the men of our day, to the point where the danger arises lest they lose the possibility of acting on their own judgment. On the other hand, not a few can be found who seem inclined to use the name of freedom as the pretext for refusing to submit to authority and for making light of the duty of obedience. Wherefore this Vatican Council urges everyone, especially those who are charged with the task of educating others, to do their utmost to form men who, on the one hand, will respect the moral order and be obedient to lawful authority, and on the other hand, will be lovers of true freedom-men, in other words, who will come to decisions on their own judgment and in the light of truth, govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort. Religious freedom therefore ought to have this further purpose and aim, namely, that men may come to act with greater responsibility in fulfilling their duties in community life.”

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