JUNE 27, 2010- 13TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR; GAL 5:1, 13-19; LK 9:51-62

 

YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED TO FREEDOM—BUT NOT A FREEDOM THAT GIVES REIN TO THE FLESH. This teaching of Saint Paul is at first sight a self-contradictory assertion. Paul himself realizes that his statement will not be readily understood by his readers and so he goes on to explain himself in some detail. What his teaching presupposes but does not state is that he is addressing himself to persons of faith. He is not discussing the psychology of free will, nor does he base himself on reason and logic. He is moving on the level of the pneuma, the human spirit, which has been recreated by the Spirit of God, received in the sacraments that Jesus imparted to his Church. Those who answer this call are to live in the freedom of the children of God. They who “live in accord with the Spirit . . .  will not yield to the cravings of the flesh.”

 

For the natural person, freedom is defined by the ability to satisfy the spontaneous desires of the flesh and gratify the emotions and passions of the soul, rooted in the psyche. Ability to satisfy the appetites whether for food, sexual desire, or worldly honors, and to amass wealth, constitutes for many the very essence of freedom. Paul here points out that such a way of thinking, far from being an expression of real freedom, is a slavery that he designates as the flesh. True freedom as the apostle conceives of it, is not the power to choose whatever a person might like at any given time. The real freedom is the power to choose what is truly good and true, and the strength to adhere to it under all circumstances. Ultimately, then, when we freely choose to cling to God’s will and plan, and only then, do we live out our vocation as followers of Christ, and children of God our Father.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus illustrates this kind of freedom both by his actions and his teaching. Saint Luke tells us in this ninth chapter of his Gospel that as his passion and death drew near, “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” That is to say, he freely went to meet his destined end in Jerusalem, keenly aware that he would meet with rejection that would lead to suffering and death there. He does not evade the humiliation, anguish, and pain that he foresees are to result from his choice to carry out the will of his heavenly Father. His attitude of total dedication to the service of his Father, and the determination to carry out the divine plan for redemption is the purest expression of the freedom of a child of God. After declaring this decision to his disciples he immediately acts by starting on the ascent that ends in the Holy City. As if to illustrate how the Lord’s decision applies to the behavior and attitudes of any who would be his disciples, Luke tells of Jesus’ responses to several men who were attracted to him and wished to join his disciples. In each instance he insists on the need for a wholehearted determination. In each instance he confronts them with the need to be ready for sacrifice from the beginning of their life with him. They must leave their home and family and separate from home and friends and share the difficulties his own lifestyle entails.

 

These texts of today’s liturgy confront each of us here with the demands of the life of a true follower of Christ. We need often to recall the demands Jesus makes here upon anyone who would live in his company. Discipleship to him who lived so totally intent upon serving his heavenly Father, inevitably makes demands that require a readiness to deny gratifications we are inclined to and to renounce the security that we grow to be so dependent upon.  We can hope to make such decisions freely only if we turn over our freedom to the Lord himself, and strive to do that by frequent prayer made in faith.

 

This Eucharist that we have come together on this Sunday puts us in the presence of the Risen Lord who not merely points out the difficulties to expect when following him. He also offers himself to the Father for our sake and comes to us in this sacrament to strengthen us in faith and love. In the end, the freedom that Paul speaks of in the epistle today is the freedom of a love that is stronger than the attractions of any satisfaction and security this world gives. It is God’s love for us, manifested in the gift of his Son who suffered and died for us that is offered to each of us in the Eucharistic communion we celebrate. As we join in this offering may his Divine love create in each of our hearts, the free and loving response that is worthy of the children of God.&  


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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