Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church
(Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)
One of the great debates in ethics is over the definition of freedom. Is freedom merely the absence of physical restraints? If this were the case, one would be free as long as no one were holding the person back. In freedom Jack could help Jill, ignore Jill, or kill Jill. A second, deeper definition of freedom sees it as transcending both physical and spiritual barriers. One is free if in addition to having no physical holds to overcome, there were no inward compulsions determining how the person will act. The person would choose between different ways of doing good because humans are made for that. Jack might buy Jill a cup of coffee, read her a sonnet of Shakespeare, telephone her when she gets sick, etc. Surely St. Paul has this second idea in mind when he writes to the Galatians in today’s first reading, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.”
Paul realizes that sin has short-circuited human freedom. Since Adam no one has been able to do the good that they deeply desire to do because of pride, lust, envy, and the other vices. Recently, however, Christ has freed them from sin by his cross and resurrection. His obedience to God and God’s ever-gracious approval have unbound the inner hold that sin has had on humans. Now they can love as they were always meant to do.
If we are to realize the freedom Christ has won for us, we must remain close to him. We do so through receiving Holy Communion and the other sacraments; by reading Scripture, especially the gospels; and by associating with the good people who comprise his body, the Church.