In the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, the Prophet finds that his purpose is larger than the resistance he encounters. He is not to worry about results; just deliver the message. No matter, as all will still know that a prophet was among them even if they turn from grace. The irony is that while they know a prophet is among them, they choose not to listen! And the same sort of story occurs in the Gospel today. Jesus’ own relatives and friends reject Him and this limits His ability to help them. It is their choice to turn to Him or not, as it is our choice, too.
St. Paul tells us today that it is “when I am weak, then I am strong.” It is in our suffering that we become strong; and it is in our alleged strengths that we keep ourselves from God. (I can do it all by myself…) That is irony for you! St. Paul is grateful for his “malady” as it is the device that keeps him humble and realistic; and this helps him in his ‘choice’ for Christ. This is the irony and paradox of our belief—it is in tribulation and weakness that we may receive the grace of strength and faith. Keeping this in mind should help make our choices more obvious!
This weekend we also celebrate the National Holiday of Independence Day. The irony is that even in this land of freedom, many choose to live as slaves. Many are slaves to their past, to their mistakes, to their passions, to addiction, to false gods, and to sin. They need the freedom of Christ: the liberty of mercy and forgiveness, of grace and God’s everlasting love.
I revere those who have fallen for our country; my own Dad was a World War II veteran—but true freedom is not won on the battlefield. It cannot be granted by Congress nor taken away by tyrants. True freedom does not depend on nationality, race, or on a form of government. Just as people can live as slaves under our great democracy, they may live as free persons under the most despotic of dictators. True freedom is a gift from God. In Christ there is the purest freedom of all—freedom from the chains that bind us: from our past, from our errors, from our selves and our choices. This is irony and a paradox and free will!
On July 4th we honor those who fought for our country’s liberty. Let us also celebrate the freedom that Jesus Christ offers all people. Let us proclaim this true liberty throughout the land! In Christ, there is a freedom that no person can give and no one can take away. In the song ‘America the Beautiful’ we sing: “America! America! May God thy gold refine, Till all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine.” Amen!
Just a Note: A song about true freedom—“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.