[6th Sunday of Easter, Year B, May 10, 2015 / Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / Ps 98:1, 2-3a, 3b-4 / 1 John 4:7-10 / John 15:9-17]
In the film “Braveheart,” there is a moment when William Wallace cries out his famous slogan “Freedom!” Freedom is highly valued in our world of today and rightly so. But what is our concept of freedom? For some it is to do whatever they feel like or want to without reference to anyone else. And of course there can be no reference to any rules or prohibitions as this would limit this supposed “freedom.” But is this really true freedom?
Jesus today in our Gospel (John 15:9-17) opens the door to true freedom. True freedom for man is to do the will of God. Authentic and liberating freedom is for the creature to do the will of his Creator – otherwise man ends up not free but actually enslaved. Five times Jesus mentions “commandments” or “commands.” What has this got to do with true freedom? It seems that the commandments, especially the commandments of the Church are the antithesis of freedom!
If you ask many people today about the Church and the Catholic faith they will say that it is a list of commandments, rules and regulations, if you like, that curb freedom. As if being a good Catholic it is just to follow a big list of “Don’ts.” Don’t do this, don’t do that!
So, many reject faith and belief in God because they desire freedom. But does not true freedom have certain rules? How do we see those rules? As a way of denying freedom? Closer inspection will reveal that these rules and commandments are actually the only way to safeguard authentic freedom.
A simple example may suffice. What is the most powerful sports car in the world? To avoid prolonged discussion let us take as an example of fine craftsmanship a Lamborghini. Now a Lamborghini has a huge engine and an aerodynamic body contour —it is designed to go fast. But there are certain rules to follow. If the manufacturer commanded you “Put high grade petrol in the tank” only a foolish man would fill up the tank with diesel. If the creator of the car said “Remain on the road” how would you understand this? As a prohibition designed to stop you from enjoying the car?
Is it not in fact a commandment to actually ensure its best performance? The rules and regulations or commandments and prohibitions are to be observed so that one can make maximum use of the potential of the racing machine. If we decide to be rebellious we can say “No one tells me what to do. I will not follow this commandment to stay on the road. It is my car and I will do what I want with it. I want to be free so I will drive it at 180 miles per hour on the pavement of the high street. Freedom!” Yes and your ‘freedom’ will result in you crashing your car and also damaging untold lives.
Now imagine the Creator of heaven and earth grants you the gift of receiving another high performance engine, a product of so much power and energy. To what am I referring? The human heart. The motor of our lives, the source of all our vitality. And if the Creator of this superb work of art gives some guidelines to follow, so that it can be used to its maximum potential, who but the most ignorant and dull person would not listen to those instructions?
And thus Jesus, who fully reveals God to us and man to himself, explains to us how to get the maximum power and benefit out of the human heart. He does not want us driving along in first gear in our loving all our lives. He gives us commandments to protect our heart, to ensure and safeguard the love contained therein. If he tells us to live from his love, to remain united to him, to not mix this love with other loves it is not to curb our freedom — it is to canalize and maximize our potential as human beings.
For example, there are some commandments of the Church regarding sexuality. Are they to curb and curtail it only? Or to order and direct it so that its true beauty can be revealed? And if we say, “I will do with it what I want. No one tells me what to do. I want to be free,” what happens? Well, instead of dominating our instincts they soon dominate us. Far from being free one becomes enslaved. How many people addicted to pornography on the Internet, alcohol or gambling will testify to the truth of this? They will tell you themselves that the initial novelty is very soon replaced by a total slavery and oppressing dependence that, when severe, can damage many lives.
But the same is also true of many inner vices such as judging others or holding resentment. At first it seems you have control but very soon things get out of control. How much sweeter to listen to the voice of Jesus than the voice of the Accuser!
Lord, help us to be mature in our Christian following, to welcome your commandments, especially that of loving and discover in that our true freedom. Amen.