Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

In Christ we are free: the Apostle and a famous convert

Saint Paul on Freedom
Galatians 4
God’s Free Children in Christ.
Do Not Throw This Freedom Away 
An Allegory on Christian Freedom
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.  23 The son of the slave woman was born naturally, the son of the freeborn through a promise. 24 Now this is an allegory. These women represent two covenants. One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25 Hagar represents Sinai, a mountain in Arabia; it corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery along with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband.”
“Drive out the slave woman and her son!
Galatians 5
The Importance of Faith.
1 For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
2 It is I, Paul, who am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised that he is bound to observe the entire law. 4 You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Freedom for Service.
13 For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. 18 But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, 21 occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. 26 Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.
In these splendid words, Saint Paul teaches us that God the Father ransomed us from slavery to sin by offering up His Son, who freely sacrificed His life in our place on the Cross.  Therefore, we possess the freedom of God’s children.  Christian freedom is not license to do whatever pleases our whims but liberty from sin to pursue excellence and place ourselves at the service of others.  We are free because of Jesus and our lives are meant to be a freely offered sacrifice to Him and to others in His name. 

Malcolm Muggeridge
In the conversion story of the British journalist Malcom Muggeridge, recorded for history by the man himself in the book titled Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, there are several instances of the theme of freedom and its implications for Christian discipleship.  Let us explore five.
  1. Through the story of an encounter with a French woman whose German lover is captured and executed, leaving her a widow before she could be a wife or mother, Malcolm teaches the lesson that liberation comes through suffering and self-giving love.  She is shaved and marched through the streets as a traitor in humiliating fashion.  She even suspects her brother to be among the executioners.  Malcom concludes from his meeting with her that “What is remarkable is that her love for her lost lover, and joy in the child she will bear him, swallows up her suffering and grief.  That is to say, she is Liberated….”  (p. 115)  For Jesus Christ, sin and death were swallowed up in love through the suffering He embraced.  This story portrays vividly for Malcolm what the Passion of Christ demonstrated, that “the only way to be truly liberated is through suffering and the dynamic of love rather than through exaltation and the dynamic of power.”  Just think how liberating and fulfilling it feels when we have reached outside of ourselves and done something good for another instead of wallowing in the complaints we might have about our own life.  For us, accepting suffering as the royal road of the Cross in our own lives and diving deeply into every opportunity to love no matter the cost to ourselves means being truly free.
  2. The words of Saint Augustine’s Confessions – the Doctor’s own conversion account – describe with “clarity and force” the battle with sinful impulses and the struggle to seek fulfillment in God and not in self-pleasure.  “Self surmounting self” is the phrase Augustine uses.  By not thinking of our own Pelagian efforts to master our vices and attain perfection – to surmount ourselves – Augustine says that the tumults of the flesh are hushed and we can hear the Very Voice of God.  Freedom from sin requires admitting that sin exists in us and surrendering ourselves and our sinfulness to the Lord.  We cannot do it alone.  We need Him.  When we fill our time, our thoughts, our whole day with the good things of God, then His Very Voice crowds out the sirens which call us to false promises of happiness.  Humility and surrender to God allow us to experience freedom from sin and authentic blessedness.  When we are bound to God we are truly free.  Self-control and kenosis exemplify true freedom not self-indulgence. 
  3. Of all the places where Malcom has seen the face of Jesus – from country churches to city streets – the place where he found himself “nearest to You, Jesus” was “in the land where for half a century past the practice of the Christian religion has been ruthlessly suppressed…  How infinitely preferable it is to be abhorred, rather than embraced, by those in authority.”  In every age and on every inhabitable continent, Christians have suffered for their faith.  Today, they are murdered in droves by Muslim terrorists in the Middle East.  Yet, as often as there is persecution, there are signs of joyful confidence – hymns of praise erupting where one would expect shrill cries of agony.  The youths in scripture endured the fiery furnace for the sake of their faith and were met in their suffering by the Son of Man.  When a disciple has rejected the need to please others or to be popular for the sake of remaining true to Christ at all cost, then he is truly free.  The oppression of unjust authority will have no power over him.  His soul is in the hand of God. 
  4. In his encounter with Mother Theresa, Malcolm discovers a remarkable woman of faith, who divests herself of all earthly comforts – television, radio, newspapers, fancy clothes, money and the conveniences of modern technology.  She writes her letters in her own hand personally, refuses to hold fundraisers for the order and travels in the most economical way.  This radical version of living out the Gospel – her simplicity, humility and austerity – leaves her totally free of all earthly cares to spend her time worshipping God and serving the lowliest of His people.  It is a contagious spirit as well – the wealthy ladies of India join her in serving the poor, the convent is overwhelmed by girls wanting to enter and Mother’s legacy has made hers a household name.  “Mother Theresa” is the trademark for Christian discipleship.  She made herself free of all burdens in order to be the slave of the Body of Christ.
  5. In reflecting on the concept of death and his own impending passing from this world, Malcolm finds inspiration in the example of the Lutheran theologian-pastor and courageous member of the opposition to the Third Reich Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  When two Nazi guards approached to take Bonhoeffer to his execution, “with his face shining in joyful expectation,” “For you it is an end, for me a beginning.”  Indeed, for the one who has embraced costly discipleship in life and dies a disciple, “life is changed, not ended” (Preface I of the Mass for the Dead, Roman Missal) and death has no power, no sting, no victory.  We are free to live life to its fullest, using the good things God has made for us on earth for his glory and our human flourishing.  Malcolm concludes his chapter in death, the final one of the book, by committing to live just for each day.  Indeed, having experienced the merciful love of God, we are free to live and free from fear of death.  Christ is alive and He is among us always!
    With Malcom and the Apostle to guide us, may we always seek to honor God in our lives and so be free from selfishness, fear and sin.  For this purpose God has created and redeemed us.  Whenever and wherever God is the first priority, then the Spirit is alive and freedom reigns. 

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