by Fr. Jeff Loseke
Whenever we read or watch the world news, we are reminded just how uncommon the freedom is that we possess and celebrate here in the United States. There are countless many people across our globe who yearn to be able to live in peace and to pursue happiness in their own homelands, and there are countless others who would risk even their own lives to come to America to experience it. As we approach our nation’s Independence Day, we have much for which to be grateful. Fundamentally, our gratitude stems from the recognition that the blessings we enjoy in this country do not come from ourselves. It was someone else’s sacrifice, someone else’s struggle that won the independence we so cherish. As Christians, we can give thanks further for the ultimate gift of freedom that was purchased for us by Jesus’ one Sacrifice on the Cross. His Sacrifice fulfills all others, and, moreover, it infuses all other sacrifices with the power to defeat evil. Not only are we given the gift of freedom, but we are invested with its responsibility as well. All those who have been baptized are now sharers in the work of Christ in bringing this freedom of salvation to the whole world (cf. Col 1:24).
The idea of “freedom”, however, often gets muddled in our increasingly individualistic society, and many understand it to mean: the ability to do whatever one chooses. On the contrary, “freedom” is more precisely defined as: the ability to choose the good. As a people redeemed by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, we have been set free from the tyranny of sin and death… if only we cooperate with Him through the choices we make and the lives we live (cf. Gal 5:1). When we choose the good, we enjoy true freedom. When we give in to temptation and choose evil, we become slaves to sin and lose the freedom won for us by Jesus’ Precious Blood. The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility. We must recognize in our Independence Day celebrations that not only do we enjoy many freedoms, but also we have many responsibilities. Liberty always comes at the price of someone’s blood: for our nation it was the blood of many brave soldiers, for humanity it was the Blood of the Son of God.
The picnics and parades and family gatherings around the barbecue this coming week help us to appreciate what we possess in freedom and also serve to draw us out of our individualism into the communion we have with one another. They also remind us of our responsibilities to each another. While no one of us may be able to bring about peace in the Middle East or resolve the problems of the whole world, we can make our little corners of the world better places to live. To that end, we must reflect upon our own areas of responsibility—home, community, workplace, etc.—and recommit to making those places free of sin and temptation. By extending the victory of the Cross, we extend boundaries of freedom itself.
The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska. Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha. In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.
Art: Flags by Childe Hassam, 1918 (Wikimedia Commons)