Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Freedom, Truth, and Love

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform actions on one’s own responsibility.  As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus growing in perfection or of failing and sinning.  There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.  The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”  Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis (self-discipline) enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.                       -- CCC 1731-34

I often provide a review of the better books I’ve read, and I think it appropriate to also review some of the better publicly-available talks I’ve heard.  This talk is actually a series of three talks, by Fr. John Riccardo, a well-known outstanding orator and defender of the faith.  The talk (#103) is titled: Living as a Christian in a Post Christian World, and is available from Ave Maria Radio online .  The second and third talks, on Relativism and Freedom, are outstanding explanations of some of the most critical --- and often confused --- issues facing the American culture, and Christians. 
Fr. John devotes a large part of his talk to quoting authorities on their definitions of freedom, and what it means.  (I included the catechism’s words at the start.)  Freedom is rooted in reason, and he walks us in a reasoned way to the inter-relationship of freedom and truth.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  And, I am the way and the truth and the life. Jesus told us clearly the relationship between truth and freedom, real freedom.  It is largely defined by Him, in love. 
Fr. John takes us back to Genesis 2 and the Garden of Eden to teach us something about Adam and Eve and their sin which many Christians don’t understand.  You shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  We know how the devil tempted Adam and Eve to go against God’s commandment, in fact it’s the same temptation the world voices against the Catholic Church today:  “It’s just trying to limit your freedom; if you are free to choose anything you want, without the Church’s arbitrary limitations you can find all the happiness you could want or dream of” --- i.e., if you weren’t limited you could have anything you want, just like a god.  The temptations of the serpent in the Garden, and our culture now, are a distortion of the real meaning of freedom. 
Putting it simply, good or evil things are things which either please or displease God.  He is the decider of what pleases Him or not, so He is the decider of what is good or evil.  So God’s commandment in the Garden was not one which limited Adam and Eve, it was one which told them the truth:  He is God, and they are not.  He created them out of love, and wants them to remain in His love, and He in theirs.  Evil will displease God, and fracture their love relationship.  Adam and Eve are free to do anything as they want, except evil, or their relationship will God will die. 
Our culture has taken God out of the equation when it talks about freedom.  It implies that freedom is my ability to do good or evil things to myself --- I am the decider of what is good and evil, because what I do impacts me.  So the Catholic Church’s saying I shouldn’t do something is limiting my happiness.  But the truth is that the Church’s definition of freedom, as described in Genesis, relates to God’s happiness.
There are so many good explanations in Fr. John’s talk that it is impossible to summarize them, except to say that I believe it to be an excellent talk, which uses reason in addition to references, to explain the relationships of freedom, truth, and love --- and responsibility.  For young minds or minds not well-founded in the faith, it makes a very convincing case for knowing and living a life in true freedom.  It refutes very well the explanations offered by the culture, and for teenagers, the explanations offered by their high school and college professors.  This talk will help keep kids Catholic, and teach them the value of limiting their freedom to do anything ---- including sin. 
·         Freedom devoid of the truth and the good isn’t freedom.
·         The world looks at Christianity and sees it as a limit from doing something.  Christianity is that, but it is also a freedom for doing or not doing something.
·         Freedom is for love, love of God and neighbor.  If we’re not free, we cannot love.  We choose to love.
·         There is no freedom without truth (Aristotle).
·         Freedom without truth leads to relativism.
·         Sin:  The failure to live freedom excellently (George Weigel).
·         He frees us from sin by His death and resurrection, so we can be free to love.
·         Happiness comes from making of yourself a sincere gift to others.  This is freedom.
Even if you do not have time to read good books, you do have time while you are driving down the road to listen to something better than music or talk radio; you can listen to something which grows your mind, and your faith --- and our culture. 
The Year of Evangelization, the Year of Faith --- the Church is calling upon YOU to do something.  This is something.
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Monday, June 11 was Father John Riccardo’s birthday.  As I sat in the chapel of his parish that night I thought “well, I won’t see him here tonight; he’ll probably party ‘til the cows come home.”  And that reminded me of an event in my life I had long forgotten.
When I traveled with my sister in 1987 to that remote village in Yugoslavia, we found that nighttime there meant darkness, absolute darkness --- there were no street lights in the village.  And so when we stayed too long praying on the hillsides one night, darkness closed in and we realized we were lost.  We had strayed from the path through the crops and could see nothing beyond them.  Suddenly we heard a rumble:  clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp.  It came very near to us and we saw it was a cow, trotting through the field.  We looked at each other and thought that it looked like it knew where it was going, and so we followed it back to the village.  “Party ‘til the cows come home” had a new meaning for us after that night. 
I guess you could say we followed in freedom, and God showed us a truth --- and His love.  I guess you could also say that God protects idiots, if we’ll let Him.  And He’ll also teach us something, if we’ll let Him.      

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