If you want to be free …

9 Jul

Sometimes dusk is beautiful. But sometimes it seems to capture the mood of the heart – things just don’t make sense: Is my life meaningless? Am I always to be a captive of fear, anxiety or sin?

In my two previous blogs, “Freedom isn’t free” and “The price of freedom,” I discussed the threat against religious freedom in present federal law and political machinations to redefine for us what faith and religion are and are not.

The price of freedom, in a word, is surrender – surrender to God, surrender to his love and grace, and surrender to the awesome, staggering truth that, in Christ, I can actually say, “God is MY Father.”

As with any mystery of faith, our only recourse is God’s Word, his Church and Sacraments. As with any desire to live in faith, you have to be a martyr.

There’s no getting around it – to be free, you have to die.

Not everyone is a “bloody” martyr – someone who sheds his or her blood for God, family and country.

In 1902, 12-year-old Maria Goretti, a simple Italian farm girl, died at the hands of an intended rapist. She was stabbed to death for resisting. In 1950, at her canonization ceremony in Rome, Pope Pius XII said that we must all be martyrs; and though not all are called to a bloody death for the sake of God, we are called to that day-by-day death of self. And we die to self in resisting temptation, in standing for right and in serving those in need.

To live this slow martyrdom faithfully and fruitfully, you must be committed, dedicated and willing to work without ceasing for God’s glory and the good of your neighbor. You need the grace of God – the call of God to holiness and God’s strength. You need the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, the Fire of faith, the Sanctifier of heart and soul.

Without the Holy Spirit there is no Church, no Scripture, no Eucharist. It is the Holy Spirit who fired up the Church in that first Pentecost. You receive this Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation.

So, if that’s so, why are so many Catholics so cooled down when it comes to living the faith as committed disciples of the Lord Jesus?

Receiving the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments is only part of the equation. The other part is accepting the Holy Spirit, the gift of salvation, and whatever special gift the Spirit wants to give you for your own holiness and to help others discover the glory of having God and OUR Father.

The Spirit gives you gifts to make you a Christian, to make you holy – go to Isaiah 11:1-3. And the Spirit gives you gifts to help others, certain “ministerial gifts” that enable you to call others into the marvelous light of faith. Read 1 Cor 12:4-11.

In my recent book, “Catholic and Confident,” Part Three is dedicated in large part to the Spirit’s activity in the lives of so-called ordinary Catholics (how can you be ordinary if God is your Father?). Chapters Eight and Nine treat “The Power of the Spirit” and “The Ministerial Gifts of the Spirit.” I hope these reflections will help many people.

If you want to be free, even in persecution and oppression, call upon the Holy Spirit. It is only in spiritual freedom that we have any hope for protecting our freedom of religion in our own country.


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