COLUMN: July: Independence Day: “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.” July 4,2021

Happy Independence Day! As we celebrate the 4th of July, this is a good time to reflect on the true meaning of freedom. True freedom should empower us to do what we ought to do, not just anything we may want to do.

This distinction can be difficult for most of us to absorb in our American culture. We often focus on being free “from” something or someone. Our Independence Day celebrates our declaration that the 13 American colonies were no longer subject to the monarch of Britain. That is certainly worth celebrating.

Over time some have adopted a sense that freedom means we have no purpose other than to do what we want when we want – with no deeper meaning. We want to be able to do what we want unencumbered by anything or anyone.

As Christians, we have a deeper understanding of freedom. Freedom makes us responsible for our own actions. Our actions should be in accord with what is good and right. The more we choose to do what is right, the freer we become. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. … The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (CCC 1731, 1733)

If you know someone in the grip of an addiction, you can see how this plays out. Someone might be “free” to indulge in that addiction. Yet in exercising that freedom, people would say they feel trapped, not free. They desire help to do what they know they should do, and to stop the cycle of seeming powerlessness.

When we turn away from God’s perfect will, we become less than the people God wants us to be. We become freer   when we follow His plan. There is a lightness in our step and a goodness that cascades forth. The alternative is a downward spiral into sin and despair.

The beauty of our faith is that we are not alone, and God gives us a remedy when we turn away from His will, when we lose our true freedom. Jesus came to set us free from sin. He forgives us and draws us into a loving relationship with God the Father. Baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation are pathways to freedom from sin.

We can grow in true freedom by growing as disciples of Jesus. We can immerse ourselves in His Word. We can treat others as we should – with dignity, respect, love, and compassion. We can use our freedom to do what is right and good. In so doing we become truly free.

May this time of celebrating our freedom led us to reflect more deeply on how God is calling us to use our freedom in our daily lives. May He set us free so that we can do what is good and right. Happy Independence Day!

Your servant,

The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory


Diocese of Gary