Homily for July 2018 Holy Hour
Psalm 123:1-2, 2, 3-4
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the Fourth of July as our national holiday. As far as I know, we are the only country that celebrates July 4th as a holiday.
That’s because of its significance to us. Of course, it is the date in which the colonists signed the “Declaration of Independence” that declared our freedom from England. Perhaps the most famous words from it are “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
They declared independence because of oppression from the king that denied them the “unalienable rights” given by our Creator. Freedom was an important value in the founding of our country. Freedom of religion was why many of the early settlers came here. This freedom is among the freedoms explicitly listed in the first amendment of our nation’s constitution.
Freedom is also an important value in our faith. We have free will to choose what we want to do. Freedom is a topic discussed in Gaudium et Spes, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council.
What is freedom? The prevailing secular opinion today is that freedom is the ability to act without constraint to do whatever we want with the one possible restriction being “as long as we don’t harm anyone.”
This would be relativism but is it good use of our freedom?
Yes, we are free to choose to do whatever we want. However, should we do whatever we want?
Look at Jesus’ words, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
These words might seem difficult to accept. If a person tells us that if we love them we will do whatever they ask, we might stop being their friend because we feel like they are taking advantage of our love. What is the difference with God?
God loves us. Of course, we might say that our friends love us too. I hope you do have friends that love you. Yet, if they start saying something to us with the words, “if you love me,” we might quickly become skeptical. We anticipate a selfish request from them. Their love (and our love) is imperfect.
On the other hand, God’s love is perfect. Based on his perfect love, he gives us commandments that are good for us. Trusting in God’s love, we are called to keep his commandments.
God is the one who all-knowing. Trusting in his knowledge and love we hear the words God offers through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you-oracle of the LORD-plans for your welfare and not for woe.”
We are free to do whatever we want. We are free to do something stupid like stepping in front of a train, but should we? We are free to choose to engage in immoral acts, but should we?
When Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,” he also spoke of how he keeps the Father’s commandments for him because he trusts the Father. His will and the will of the Father are one.
Paul’s words of the Philippians in our second reading show us Jesus’ complete surrender to our Father’s will. Jesus is the one “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself,” ultimately laying down his life for us on the Cross.
Seeing this, we should keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. Seeing this we should keep his commandments.
Many people today (those who follow relativism) believe that the greatest good is the freedom to do whatever we want. Freedom is good. In Gaudium et Spes we read, “It is, however, only in freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good” (17).
God gives us free will (freedom) but what is authentic freedom, meaning good use of our freedom?
To answer this, I will use the quote from St. John Paul II on the front of tonight’s program, “FREEDOM consist not in doing we LIKE, but in having the RIGHT to do what we OUGHT.”
In love, we can choose to do what God asks of us. What is God asking of you?