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A life of ease or life of peace?

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“Do what you want,” he said almost flippantly. “It’s a free country.”

It is, indeed. In the American sense, we all have the freedom to do what we want. We can live as we choose to live. However, before we are citizens of any nation, we are citizens of the kingdom of God and heirs to his glory. It is there, in his kingdom, that we truly have freedom. That is not the freedom to do what we want in the cultural sense of the word. Instead, it is the freedom to want to do the will of God, and to pursue that desire to its fullest fruition.

True liberation asks something of us. It isn’t doing what we wish, but doing what we ought. It is choosing a life of virtue, and it is manifested in peaceful self-possession. Too often, in a confused pursuit of false freedom, we enslave ourselves to our desires. Instead of the liberty of true self-control, we are owned by a lust for possesions, power, or prestige, or we are at the mercy of envy or lust or insecurity or fear or any number of things that are not of God. Those things — sought in the name of doing what we want — bind us in very real ways, making us unavailable for what God wants for us. God desires to give us true freedom — the freedom to fully know, love and serve him, and so to give ourselves without restriction to one another in genuine charity. Freedom in Christ looks very little like the culture’s idea of freedom.

We have drifted so far from the recollected life of freedom in the kingdom of God that we frequently don’t recognize the masters that make us slaves. Further, we fail to recognize the ways we can be set free. The church enables us to live in freedom, to punctuate the moments of our days in order to keep us tethered only to the will of God.

Lured by false promises of a selfish and materialistic culture, it’s easy to lose the way. Little by little, without noticing, we can relinquish our liberty and become entangled in the tightening snares of hedonism. We use our liberty to allow ourselves to be impoverished by the trappings of material wealth and a throwaway culture. How do we find our way back?

It is no coincidence that those who choose to be bound by the chains of the culture are often those unwilling to submit to the rhythm and the rule of the church. They have the freedom to worship but they don’t, thereby passing up the very grace that would give life to their souls. They relinquish their freedom in order to become slaves to something insidious and deadly. Choosing culture over Christ, they think they are too “woke” for outdated teaching. If only they’d listen with humility to what the church counsels, they’d see that ours is a faith informed by reason, and that over a long history its teachings have proven to be both wise and prophetic.

In a quest to do more and be more and connect more, fragmented souls allow themselves to be dominated by the god of busyness. Bustling past the church where a candle is lit beside the one true Lord, the souls enslaved to culture miss the opportunity to live a recollected life that is bathed in peace. What freedom is this that trades the sacramental for “successful?”

A sacramental life is one where a soul allows itself to be directed  and permeated by the Holy Spirit. In the truest expression of freedom of human will, the soul submits to being effected by grace. Every day, there exists the opportunity to be forgiven our sins and to receive from the generous Creator himself food for spiritual nourishment. With every Mass, we gain the strength we need to exercise virtue. Throughout the course of a day bookended by morning prayer and evening prayer, we walk in rhythm with the Creator. It’s not a life of ease, but it is a life of peace that comes from living in the liberty intended for us all along.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@elizabethfoss