Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42)
A woman recently published an article in the Christian Science Monitor with the intriguing title, “Do brothels and bikinis mark progress for Arab women?” The author believes that the revolutions shaking the Arab world would be counter-productive if they bring to power chauvinists who allow women to be exploited in the name of freedom. In a sense she takes a position not far from Jesus’ in his debate with the Jews about true freedom.
Jesus speaks of freedom as a quality of the soul that shuns sinful desires when he tells the Jews, “If you remain in my word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We see as captive the addict who cannot “say no to drugs.” Equally un-free, although there may be no civil crime impugning him or her, is the habitual liar or blasphemer. The Jews, on the other hand, are using the popular notion of freedom when they say that they have never been enslaved to anyone. This statement not only misses Jesus’ point; it also denies history as the Jews were enslaved to the Babylonians (as the first reading indicates) and even in Jesus’ time are under Roman rule.
Learning the truth by becoming Jesus’ disciples, we are set free from those inner impulses that can dominate us. He teaches us humility to check pride, simplicity to counter greed, gentleness to curb anger, and much more. We should not make the mistake of saying that these virtues contribute little to happiness. They enable us to do what we most deeply desire and, thus, lead us to our most cherished goal in life.