In the Gospel for Wednesday’s Mass, Jesus says: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. (Matt 7:15). Of course we first think of individuals when we see a verse like this. But the Lord’s teaching can, and should be applied also to philosophies.
One of the terribly destructive philosophies is a false notion of freedom. The sinful world, going all the way back to Satan’s deceit in the garden, thinks of freedom as being able to do whatever I please. In effect those who hold this, flaunt their false notion of freedom saying in effect, “I will do what I want to do, and I will decide if it is right or wrong. No one will tell me what to do.” It is freedom in the abstract, freedom for its own sake, rather than for the sake of being able to do what is right.
That this notion of freedom is false is evident from its fruits. For although many, in modern times, claim to march under the banner of freedom from being told what to do, it becomes clear that many of them end up it a terrible state of increasing slavery and bondage.
For this era when a false notion of freedom is exulted is also an era of increasing addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, and a general lack of self control. And with greed and materialism, whatever we have is never enough. There is thus a bondage to things, a kind of incapacity to live without endless numbers of things and creature comforts. Therefore we also see increasing bondage to credit, both personally and nationally. We simply “cannot” stop our runaway spending. There is also an increasing lack of ability to make and keep commitments and many feel “compelled” to divorce, leave the priesthood and religious life.
None of this shouts the freedom that so many boast of. Rather there is evident, bondage, inability, compulsion, addiction, and an out of control quality to modern life.
You will thus know by its fruits that false freedom is not true freedom. It masquerades in the “sheep’s” clothing of liberty, but underneath it is the ravenous wolf of bondage. Many cry “Liberty!” when they really mean “libertine” and “licentious.” They are headed straight for bondage. St. Augustine said,
For of a perverse will, was a lust made; and a lust served, became custom; and custom not resisted, became necessity. (Confessions 8.5)
The Catechism also says,
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 # 1733).
And thus we arrive at the definition of true freedom which is the capacity to obey God.
And what are the fruits of true freedom? An increasing liberation from the power of sin, the increasing capacity to do what is right and just by the power of God. True freedom brings greater self control, the ability to moderate one’s desires and have them submitted to right reason. True freedom brings serenity, for one’s life is in greater balance and harmony.
By true freedom, the innumerable sorrows of false freedom listed above are largely avoided and one’s life is simpler, more focused, and one enjoys the results of a disciplined and reasonable life. Sorrows and suffering are not eliminated but are diminished for many of their sources in excess, addiction and compulsion are removed. True freedom ushers in, by God’s power, the life that Jesus Christ died and rose to give us.
So what do you want, the fake freedom of the world, or the glorious freedom of the children of God? (Rom 8:21)