Monday July 4, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Independence Day
Reading (Genesis 28:10-22a) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:18-26)
In the readings today, we see very clearly what true freedom is all about. We can compare that to what our country is celebrating in so many unfortunate ways on this day. Of course, on the secular level there is the celebration of freedom from a foreign power, that we have independence and can do what we want as a nation. But that has been completely twisted now to the point where “I can do anything that I want and no one can tell me any different. I have complete autonomy and freedom means license.” But what we see in the readings today is very different from that.
We see, first of all, in the first reading, Jacob (whose name would later be changed to Israel) going to this place that he would call Bethel. Bethel means “the house of God.” In this place he has a vision of the angels of the Lord going up and down on this ladder, and he recognizes that God dwells in this place, which is why he changed the name. It is in the dwelling place of God that we find full freedom for our souls because each one of us is the dwelling place of God. God dwells within each one of us if we are in the state of grace. And so it is with God within that we have freedom from everything that would keep us bound.
In the Gospel, we see that there is freedom from death as Jesus raises this little girl from the dead. But not freedom from physical death, rather freedom from eternal death, that we have the freedom to live forever. Now every single soul, we know, is going to live forever in one of two places. But for us it is the freedom to live with God and to live without sin for all eternity. For those who make the wrong choices in this life and choose eternity with Satan, there will be no freedom at all. They will be held bound to the slavery of sin in which they are already in, and they will be held bound by slavery to one who hates them. For those who love God, on the other hand, the freedom of the children of God is going to be theirs, and it already is. They have the freedom to live according to the way that God created us to live because we have the grace of God to be able to do it. It is not something we can do on our own. It is purely a gift.
We see also in the Gospel reading today that this woman who is afflicted with a hemorrhage comes up to the Lord, touches His cloak, and Jesus simply looks at her and says, Courage, daughter, your faith has healed you. If we have true and complete faith in Jesus Christ, we have freedom from everything that this world afflicts us with. We have freedom from anxiety and worry. We have freedom from oppression, inside and out. We have freedom from sin. We have freedom from Satan. We have freedom from everything that is going to hold us bound because we are in Christ and Christ has overcome everything that can even possibly hold us in bondage. That is the gift that is given to us.
And as we celebrate in a secular way today the freedom that we have as a country, anybody who is a true Christian must realize how we have perverted the concept of freedom in this country. It really cannot even be called a secular holiday because the way it is celebrated can only be called pagan. It is freedom to sin. Saint Paul asks the simple question about the freedom that we have as the children of God: Does that mean we are free to sin? By no means. We have the freedom to act according to the Will of God, the freedom to be the children of God.
So what we have to do is make sure that we understand and celebrate in a proper way what true freedom is. True and perfect freedom is to do the Will of God. It is just that simple. Perfect freedom is doing God’s Will. Each and every one us, being the dwelling place of God and having the grace of God, is able to do the Will of God. It is in that that we must rejoice. Far more important than freedom from any foreign power is the freedom from the ultimate foreign power – and that is Satan. We have the freedom to act according to the way that God has created us to act, and we have the freedom to become the persons God created us to be. It is in that that there is great rejoicing. So we thank God for the freedoms that we have been granted in this country, but most of all we need to thank God for the freedom that has been granted us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: freedom from death, freedom from sin, freedom from oppression at the hands of the enemy of our soul, so that we can live in the true freedom of the children of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.