Christians are offered the mind-blowing prospect of inheriting the “freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8,21). Such a freedom is truly momentous, first because it opens up the possibility of doing things that we might previously have thought impossible and secondly – perhaps even more importantly – of becoming the person that God has chosen us to be.
So what is freedom? Humans are “born free”. Lions, as the subject of the film which bears that name, strictly speaking, are not. We are free because, unlike lions, or any other species of the animal kingdom, we can choose to do what is the better option in a given situation. Animals cannot recognise what is good, they instinctively just go for what they need. They do not choose anything. They might learn how to do things through training (e.g. performing seals or elephants or chimpanzees), but importantly, they do not recognise what they are doing to be good.
We, on the other hand, can recognise that in any given situation, we have a choice to make. Should I go to work today? (I might not feel like it, or I might feel forced to do so, but ultimately it is my choice whether or not to open the front door). Should I help out more in the parish? Should I have burgers or a salad for lunch?
Merely avoiding what is sinful might be virtuous, but it is not freedom, because sin enslaves us. Calling the avoidance of sin a free act would be like saying that the choice between going to work and not killing your wife was a free choice. Rather, it is a non-choice!
All this is important because we are called to respond to God’s plan for us. If we are not free, then such a response cannot be made in love. And as we are called to love, then we are lost without having the free choice to do so.
Freedom, if it is to be truly free, is based on the truth, i.e., that which is. It might be tempting to say that the truly free person does what he or she wants at any moment. That is what the modern vision says. But if such choices are not true choices – that is, if they do not help us live in a completely open way, then our freedom becomes limited.
Following Christ is a sure path to true freedom and therefore happiness, not least because he himself is the truth. As God, he is “that which is” (cfr Exodus 3,14).
Making more and more effort to find out about the truth, basing it on a living relationship with Christ, we will come to know that truth, “and the truth will set you free” (John 8,32).