- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

A sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Rory T. Conely at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Leonardtown, Md.
We celebrate July Fourth to thank those who sacrificed so we might elect our government, express our opinions and practice our religion. In short, we celebrate our freedom to exercise our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But as our Scripture readings today point out, for the followers of Christ, who wish to journey with Him to eternal salvation, freedom means more than having certain civil rights. True freedom for a Christian means being free from anything that prevents us from imitating Christ. In other words, true freedom is freedom to be Christlike.
In our second reading [Romans 6], Paul tells us that at its most basic level Christian freedom means being free from the power of Satan and the slavery of sin. Paul reminds us that by our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection our Lord has given us the opportunity to be free of the power of sin. But we, for our part, must stand firm in this freedom by resisting those appetites, those lusts of the flesh, resentments and jealousies which will enslave us. Paul also says that true Christian liberty means overcoming the slavery of selfishness so that we can, like Christ, place ourselves at the service of one another out of love.
In the Gospel [Matthew 10], our Lord teaches us that in order to be His disciples we need to do more than be free of things that are clearly sinful. We must also have our priorities straight when it comes to the good things in life.
There are three men in the Gospel who say they wish to follow Him. Jesus is very clear with them, as He is with us, that following Him means being willing if necessary to give up the security of home. It means recognizing that as Christ's followers our duty to Him is more important than our other duties, even our duties to family, and that our love for Him must be greater than our other loves. While security, duty and love for others are very good things, if they stand in the way of our following Him, then we are not truly free to be His disciples. Like the three men in the Gospel, we may be left behind.
Now, this challenging message about true freedom freedom from sin and Satan and freedom to follow Christ raises two natural questions.
First, why should I want to make Christ the be-all and end-all of my life? The answer is because that is precisely who Christ claims to be, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the be-all and the end-all of life. Believing in Jesus Christ and what He says means accepting His claims on us. He claims to be our real security, our greatest duty and the source of all the love. Because of who Jesus Christ is, our Lord and Savior, to give Him anything less than top priority would be both foolish and sinful. Then, too, we should remember that Jesus promises us that if we seek first His kingdom, His rule over our lives, then we will be rewarded both in this life and in the world to come.
The second question is, given our fallen nature and our tendencies toward sin, how can we possibly live in the freedom of the children of God that Christ has called us to? The answer is that on our own we cannot.
But if we really want to stand firm in this freedom, if we really want to reject sin and refuse even to flirt with it, if we really want to be holy and not just play at being holy, then the grace of Christ, given to us through the sacraments, His word and prayer, will be enough for us. To paraphrase St. Paul, in Christ we can do all things.
So this week, as you are reminded of the Fourth of July and the freedom that we celebrate on that day, remember that Christ has enabled you to enjoy an even higher freedom. Ask yourself if you are doing all you can to enjoy the life, liberty and eternal happiness that Jesus offers.
Next week: a sermon at a Maryland congregation

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