Ultimate Freedom

(Homily for Trinity Sunday - Year B)

Bottom line: The Lord is God and there is no other. In him alone - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - will we find ultimate freedom.

During these past three Sunday, I have tried to maintain the theme of freedom. On Ascension Sunday I spoke about deep freedom: overcoming slavery to Satan by joining oneself to Christ - who already rules at the Father's right hand. Last Sunday - both Pentecost and Memorial Day weekend - we addressed wide freedom: that Christ wants us to work for a society with the broadest possible freedom for all its members. If I can put it this way, a Christian is naturally pro-choice - except when that choice gravely harms another human being.*

Christian freedom is deep and wide. For this third Sunday I would like to follow freedom to its goal. I would like to speak to you about ultimate freedom.

St. Paul says, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." The goal of our life is to receive the Holy Spirit and become a son or daughter of God. St. Paul continues, "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, 'Abba, Father!'"

Freedom does not mean doing what you want, when you want, with whoever you want.** That's leads to slavery. Freedom, true freedom, means the power to become the one you were meant to be.

And what are you meant to be? Let's start with what you are: You are a creature with intelligence and free will. I don't have to convince you that you are intelligent. A poll of people in this country showed that 90 percent consider that they are smarter than the average American! We might not be as intelligent as we think, but we know we able to learn and understand. And we also have free will - a capacity to chose and love.

The ability to know and to love is a clue what our purpose: We are meant to know and love not only other creature, but to know and love Love Itself. That is, the Three who are One God. Jesus indicates that purpose in the Gospel. Because entering that eternal relationship is the goal of our lives, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.***

If you realize this destiny, then anything you may suffer, any deprivations, any cruelty or misunderstanding is small potatoes - compared to what St. Paul calls the "weight of glory," that is, becoming a son of the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit. In God alone will we find ultimate freedom - which is joy in the Lord.

The truth is, brothers and sisters, that you and I were created for joy. We are always trying to arrange things so that at some point in the future we will have happiness. Of course, when that moment arrives there's always something wrong - and we find ourselves look ahead to something else.

Thus we fall into a trap. Instead of learning that we are meant for joy beyond this world, we think, "If only." If only I didn't have have these financial problems. If it only weren't for such and such a person. If only I could get over these health problems.

If only... That's a great deception.**** Here we get an occasional hors d'oeuvre, but the banquet is somewhere else. This world offers small tastes, but cannot give joy itself. When we seek worldly joy, we end up miserable. We become slaves to a pleasure that diminishes daily.

But that does not mean real joy does not exist. St. Thomas Aquinas said, "No man can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures." Grasping for joy in this world leads to slavery - and constant fear. Freedom comes when we turn from the world's empty promises.

In today's first reading we hear that the Lord is God - and there is no other. In him alone - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - will we find ultimate freedom. Amen.


*Making choice an absolute can lead terrible conclusions. Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards opposed a ban on sex-selective abortions on the grounds that it would "limit [a woman's] choices as she makes personal medical decisions."

On the other hand, when a person recognizes the legitimate limits of choice, a broad field of freedom opens. God gave our first parents hundred of options - all good. Among their possible choices only one was wrong. God is radically (but not absolutely) pro-choice.

**I know a man who, because of certain circumstances, received an early retirement. He can get up and go to bed when he wants, eat anytime and anything he desires - and he spends most of the day reading or watching television. It seems he would be very happy, but he is not. In fact, to anyone who listens he admits to being deeply miserable. On the other hand I have known people who have very little and must work long hours, yet they have joy. Joy comes when we accept discipline and make God our goal.

***It is too much to develop in one homily but to appreciate what is at stake, a person should consider what it means if he do not realize his destiny, that is, does not enter the relationship for which he was created. Perhaps no one expressed it better than the novelist, Feodor Dostoevsky. Known as the "master of the human heart," he saw the loneliness and misery of man alienated from his purpose. And he saw that it could lead to final separation from God. Here is how Dostoevsky expresses it:

"They talk of hell fire in the material sense. I don't go into that mystery and I shun it. But I think if there were fire in material sense, they would be glad of it, for I imagine that in material agony, their still greater spiritual agony would be forgotten for a moment."

****Blase Pascal made this diagnosis of our condition:

For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and, if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so. (Pensees 172)

Spanish Version

From Archives:

Trinity Sunday Homily 2011: Origin and Goal
2010: I Have Much More to Tell You
2009: Purpose of Our Existence
2008: Family as Origin and Goal
2007: Hope Does Not Disappoint
2006: Back to the Basics
2005: Alone Again
2004: I Was There
2003: The Name
2002: An Excellent Question
2001: The Image Within
2000: Out of the Midst of Fire
1999: A Capacity for God
1998: Foundation of the Universe

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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From Bishop Tyson - Fortnight For Freedom: Homily and Worship Aids