The Freedom of the Cross

Our Christian faith is a faith of contradictions.  God became man, leaving the Kingship of heaven to become a baby born into a feed trough in the backwater of the Roman Empire.  His Gospel proclaims lifting up the lowly, making the first become last, doing good to those who hate us and, most dramatically, finding eternal life through the humiliating death of crucifixion.  Our faith opens our hearts and our lives to the power of God’s love to transform the ordinary into supernatural grace.  Water then washes away the sins we’ve concealed in the hidden rooms of our hearts.  Humble, ordinary bread and wine are transformed into our Savior’s Body and Blood, infusing us with Jesus’ Soul and Divinity.  The power of Christianity flows from the sacrifice of Christ on the Holy Cross.  Without His ultimate submissive act, our redemption is a lie.  The meaning of the Resurrection is, in a word, freedom.
 
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…”(Galatians 5:1).  Free from sin.  Free from fear.  Free from death.  In the Cross is our truest freedom—the freedom to be who God desires us to be.  When Christ sets us free from all that binds us, we inherit all the rights and privileges of the sons and daughters of God.  We are co-heirs with Christ Himself. But this eternal transformation comes about only through an indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who conforms us more and more to Christ.  This relationship is the way the Cross does its work in us, removing the strongholds of our sin and replacing them with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  This is another great contradiction of our faith:  freedom comes through surrender.
 
And this is what confounds our culture about Catholicism.  For us, freedom means the power to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Freedom is NOT the right to do or say whatever we might desire.  Left on our own, our freedom is both limited and fallible.  We found that out in the Garden of Eden.  God gave us our free will and our choices can be in conformity with the will of God, or not.  He loves us and wants us to turn to Him and “freely attain our full and blessed perfection by cleaving to Him”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1743).  When we kneel at the Cross, we conquer the world.  We are set free through Christ to experience our fullest and truest human dignity.  For Catholics, this freedom isn’t getting whatever we want whenever we want it, but it is pursuing the highest good.  No one was freer than St. Peter when he was put in chains for the love of Jesus, or St. Francis of Assisi when he gave away all that he owned so that he could freely preach the Gospel.  Anything that stands in the way of our union with Christ is an impediment to freedom.  For us, it is Truth that stands at the center of freedom—not our flawed human will.  This is why we stand against abortion and slavery and pornography and same-sex “marriage.”  Not because our faith is an endless collection of rules and man-made practices.  But because our faith calls us to the freedom that only Christ can give.  Through His grace, our human will seeks more and more to do His divine will.  This is why we believe that no government has the right to stand between us and the God we serve.  When government interferes with the free practice of our faith, the faithful must unite in protest and in prayer.  To submit to government interference is to be only partially-free, and only partially-Catholic.  It is to live half a life and one devoid of the fullest human dignity which was won for us by Christ on the Cross.  Our true freedom was purchased with the Blood of Jesus.  As Catholics, we must be willing to defend this precious and inestimable price with our lives.
 
We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan.  When we do this, we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then–and only then–truly free.”
                                                —Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia

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