To be free, truly free

Posted one week late – everything else intervened to prevent timely posting. But then, better late than never right?
Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary time

Galatians 4:22-5:1; Psalm 113; Luke 11:29-32
Let’s start with a story about a pheasant in a cage. This pheasant yearns to be free. It looks wistfully out at birds and other animals running and flying everywhere, wherever they will. One day, its owner decides to set it free and brings it to the nearest jungle. When in the jungle, it becomes very frightened by the strange sights and sounds. It finds a clearing in jungle and stays there. The clearing is nice, comfortable with sufficient food and water so it decides to stay there. It also happens to be just a little larger than its old cage. We too yearn to be free, but can we truly use our freedom well?
The first reading from St Paul to the Galatians is a continuation of last week’s. St Paul tells of the need to go against legalism, against just the letter of the law and move towards the law of love that Jesus describes to us. It’s not really saying that the old law (represented by Hagar and the Sinai covenant) leads to slavery and that we are free. It’s a message about how the freedom of Sarah and the new law stems from a promise that comes from God.
How exactly does freedom come from God? St Paul tells us that we are freed by Christ and that Christ wants us to remain free. Free from what exactly? Freed from the yoke of sin but also freed from the piddling laws that could bog us down and make us love less.
I’d like to give a slightly literary example. Which of the following sounds better?
  • And what should I do now? What state should I be in? That is the question. Is it better to submit myself to fate or do something to solve these problems of mine?
  • To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?

I hope that most would agree that the second example sounds better because of the beauty of the language. Shakespeare (who wrote the second excerpt that comes from Hamlet) was a great playwright and poet because he was free enough to make use of the language, to push the boundaries of meaning and metaphor to put his meaning forth in creative ways. He was not bogged down by the small rules that new learners of English sometimes face. When he’s not worried about technicalities, the beauty emerges. He uses freedom well. The same should apply to us. When we stop worrying about technicalities, then the beauty of the love of the Lord may emerge clearly.

It seems that is what’s being done at the current Synod of Bishops on the Family. To recognise the ways to spread God’s love to ALL, especially to those who may have ‘irregular’ family relationships or otherwise. The bishops and our Holy Father remind us to try to be free from legalistic boundaries to love as we are loved. Jesus goes further in the gospel by reminding us that we need freedom freedom to loving all without suspicion or difference.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for asking for signs, for doubting him and his message. The Ninevites and Queen of Sheba (or Queen of the South) were gentiles, outsiders but recognised the power of God and the majesty of God’s chosen king. They didn’t need special signs to recognise God so why did Pharisees? Freedom may be expressed such: to be able to do things new, unexpected, fresh. To venture out when we are free in our proverbial jungles. That’s what the Ninevites and Queen of Sheba did – expressed newness in their response. Freedom in how we can respond, not bogged down by legalism. Freedom in following how the Lord seems to be able to respond to challenges uniquely. Freedom in being able to embrace things we don’t quite understand but may have some faith in anyway.

Where does this leave us? We’re invited to live in freedom – from legalism and petty differences that cause us to pull apart, for responding with uniqueness and creativity in building the kingdom. Are we free? Yes! Do we act so? Sometimes. We need to remind ourselves of the need to be free, act as we are loved, and to love as we are loved.


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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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