Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent


Lectionary: 232

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Domesticated animals don't seem to mind their dependence on human beings; many seem to prefer it. Some will wander off the street looking for an owner. But the human being cannot abide slavery even when he has no choice but to submit.

The slave's obedience to a master is always fraught with danger for both parties, and they live in continual fear of each other. Only the most deluded "owners" could think their slaves are happy.
The human being is meant for freedom; that is our justification and our redemption. When the Christian invokes the sacred word salvation, he is actually speaking of freedom.

But freedom is less a right than a gift we give to one another. It is an oblation we give and receive and give again.

I have only as much freedom as others give me. I cannot run screaming through the hospital. That is not permitted. I may however offer the Sacraments of Eucharist, Penance and Healing to the Catholic Veterans. I greet the staff and hug some of them. I am not permitted to hug all of them; that's a liberty they have not permitted to me, though they might to others.

The adolescent might ask, "Why can't I do anything I want to do?" The answer is simple, "...because we won't let you."

Rights are never guaranteed and the language of rights is always ambiguous. Our American Constitution honors the "rights" of free speech, the press, assembly and religion but it says nothing about the right to work, education or health care. Can a human being survive -- much less thrive -- without work, education and health care?

A lot of patriotic citizens salute the flag for its symbol of rights and yet refuse to grant their neighbors freedom.  Even the right to stroll through certain neighborhoods by "persons of color" may be interrupted by the fearful police.

The language of rights only muddies the water. We should discuss how much freedom we are willing to give one another. We should admit we are afraid of granting very much to some people, even as we realize we have allowed too much freedom on others.

Are free inoculations against measles and mumps too much freedom? Should we give health care to anyone who needs it, regardless of ability to pay, race, religion or criminal record? Is the freedom to buy, sell, trade, own and fire a semi-automatic machine gun too much freedom? The United States has the largest prison population of any nation on earth. We not only incarcerate more people; we have the highest percentage of prisoners of any nation on earth. The inevitable cost of too much freedom is an enormous prison system. 
Is that the real meaning of, "Freedom is not free." 

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He willingly surrendered his freedom that we might walk away from our fears, guilt and shame and live with the freedom of God's children.

Those who believe him will find the freedom in their hearts to permit liberty to others. Those who don't believe in him must live in fear for the little freedom they enjoy. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.