Freedom in Law

For many of us, we have grown to find rules restrictive and constraining. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we can feel overwhelmed, suffocated, or even enslaved by the rules imposed upon us. And there are many who believe this to be the case when it comes to religion as well. The thoughts go like this: “Why must I do certain things and not do certain other things? Why should I submit to some authority I don’t even see, just because a lot of other people do? Moreover, religious people don’t even follow their own rules and it all seems like hypocrisy.”

The Truth is that Jesus came to bring freedom, to release us from the slavery of sin, a slavery of which we are far too often unaware. If we are careful to consider rules in our world, we can quickly see the benefits. Traffic rules and civil laws keep society orderly. Other rules and laws protect the vulnerable in our world. These are just rules and laws. God gives us rules to follow from his infinite justice, flowing from his infinite love for us. The Incarnation perfects the law of the covenant between God and his people because he is the fulfillment of the promises of that same covenant.

Luke’s Gospel sheds light on this very issue. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and was reading from the Prophet Isaiah: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’” (NAB, (LK 4:18-19) After returning the scroll to the attendant, Jesus said, “’Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (4:21)

Jesus, the New Covenant of Love, is fulfilled and revealed in freedom. This freedom is not one free of rules or laws, but it is made possible by obeying his commandments. “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, but whoever is begotten of God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (1JN 5:3-4) We are made free by obedience to the love of Christ.

Your Law calls me to freedom, Lord, a freedom from the chains and slavery of sin. Increase my desire for this life of love, and increase my faith, so that I may live more obediently according to your Law of Love. And let me share these same “glad tidings” with others, so that they also may come to know you and experience the joys of your freedom. Amen.

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Hail Mary, Full of Grace!

Today, we hear the incredibly beautiful words from St. Luke’s Gospel, where the Angel Gabriel confronts Mary with a profound and timeless message. He calls to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you…. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (NAB, LK  1:28, 30) The Angel announces that Mary, although a virgin, will be the God-bearer. While Mary cannot understand how the words of God’s Messenger will come to pass, her trust and faith were far greater than her doubt and lack of understanding. Thus, she responded with the words of eternal consequence and perfect unity of will: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (1:38)

Mary is the example par excellence of faith and discipleship. Being the mother of our Lord, she is also Queen of all Apostles, since she was the first one, literally, to carry the Gospel, to carry the Good News, the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Mary is not to be adored, but because of her special role in salvation history and her immaculate nature, being full of grace, she is due a veneration that is higher than that of other saints and loved ones. She is not our biological mother, whose water broke open to give us life in this world; rather, she is the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. When Mary’s water broke open, the world received God made flesh, whose very presence sanctifies the womb and woman who carried him and who sanctified the waters of our own baptism in his. Mary, our Mother, was set apart from the moment of her conception, as she, from that very moment, was completely filled with saving grace of Almighty God.

Heavenly Father, give me your grace. I am in this world as a broken, homeless soul, restless and uneasy in heart because of my nature. Make me a true disciple like Mary, your mother, my mother, who let faith and trust lead her to your truth, and when I am confused, in doubt, or don’t understand, may I repeat the words given to me by our mother: I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word. Amen.

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