Josh was in his mid twenties and in graduate school. He was at a pub with a friend of his. It was exam week and he and Joe were just grabbing a burger after a long day of studying. At a certain point in their conversation Josh made the surprising announcement that he was going to become part of the RCIA program offered by the Campus Ministry Office starting in September. Josh had been thinking about this for a while now and he thought now that he was ready to make the commitment. Sure, it would involve some time out of the week, but he thought he could manage it.
Josh had grown up with no religion. His Mom was baptized a Catholic, but never received any of the other sacraments. His Dad was a Lutheran—-but not practicing. So, with no practice of religion in the home, Josh was never brought into any faith.
But Josh’s girlfriend was a practicing Catholic. She would often make Josh go with her to Mass late Sunday evenings in the University chapel. Josh had gotten to like the priest who was there and thought his homilies were down to earth and addressed real life issues. They were actually helpful. Josh began to want to go. So when his girlfriend, Gianna, almost in a kidding way, suggested that Josh consider becoming a Catholic one day, he was very open to the idea. It was definitely something to think about.
One thing Josh did see was that as a result of his going to Church more regularly, he was starting to “calm down”. And Gianna, who was a very sensible person, was really helping as well. Josh wasn’t drinking as much and he was starting to be more responsible in his actions. He was starting to use his time better and not hanging around with some of his more wild acquaintances. And he was picking things up academically. Josh was beginning to see more and more that a person can really develop a need for God in their life. There were too many temptations “out there” and it was hard for a young person to stay on the right path. Josh began to see that he should stop playing with fire and act like a more mature adult.
So, back to the conversation at the pub: Joe said to Josh, “Why would you want to do something like that? Don’t you think that trying to live out what the Church says will really just restrict your freedom—-your ability to think for yourself and do what you want as an adult? I just think the Church is so out of touch.”
And Josh replied, “Funny you should mention that idea of freedom. I heard a great homily on this just a few weeks ago. I always thought that freedom was all about being able to think for myself, make my own decisions, and do what I think is best for myself. But, I tried being my own guide—-and almost made a mess of everything. And I never really felt all that happy with myself, and I began to see that I wasn’t just hurting myself but other people too, people that I really cared about. I’ve come to realize that freedom isn’t just doing what I want, but living responsibly, thinking of others, and knowing that I can ask for God’s help to do the right things. and although I don’t quite understand it all yet, I like the idea of being able to confess my sins and have a chance to try again. Maybe I’m over simplifying things but we will see.
St. Paul writes: “Brother and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
What a powerful message that is. And one we need to hear in these challenging times. There’s “freedom” and then there’s the freedom that Christ offers us—-the one that really provides us with a guide and a moral compass. This freedom opens the door to forgiveness, healing, and purpose in life. We learn to move away from making everything “about me” and begin to see the benefit of serving one another in love—-Christ’s way of love.
There’s always that fear that if we say “yes” to Christ we will have to give up too much—-that we will miss out on the joys of life. Actually, when we follow Jesus, the exact opposite happens. We end up receiving more than we expected and we find ourselves on the right path involved in the right things.
Christ wants all of us to come to a deeper faith. But this grace is something we have to ask for, pray for. But God hears our prayers and frees us from “slavery”. Somehow God works it all out! Follow Him and see for yourself that this is true!