February 18, 2013

The Freedom of God in Our Freedom

Sometimes we look at religious observance as a kind of holy imposition, a yoke, a burden.  We can even look being observant as an inconvenience to which we submit as if we were somehow manipulated into it.  Although we cannot do very much about such feelings (they come and go whether we like it or not), there is a deeper truth for which we forsake not the discipline of our faith - a truth that dances in the sacred melodies of love and freedom.

The Lenten Observance is a time of discovering the liberty of God in our freedom, and in discovering this, also tasting a new liberty.  This is a freedom that the narrow limits of this present life cannot fully contain. It orients us to a life over which sin and death have no power.

In the discipline of the Christian life, that holy exercise of our faith, God freely works through our freedom to restore our dignity and to help us discover our true identity in His eyes.  Our choices, especially those we make out of love, are the very stuff of this divine industry.  Despite our spiritual sluggishness, He is constantly making all things new in our lives and in the world with unimpeded sovereignty - and this even when sometimes we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved and traded our dignity for pottage unworthy of the children of God.  How can we respond in any other way to God's faithfulness to us than by renouncing our sins and taking up the discipline again?

Hidden though it is from our distracted gaze, the saving presence of the Risen Lord is freely directing the smallest, the most ordinary, the most humble things.  Accepting His loving Providence in the little hidden things in life is the fountain of all genuine freedom in our lives - a smile to the busy clerk at the grocery store, a kind word in exchange for a rude remark, allowing someone to inconvenience you a little so that they might know they are loved.  We need to be careful when He gently proposes and disposes, or our hearts will be pierced in such a way we may never be able to live the same again - for our freedom given in love opens up whole horizons for His freedom to work in.

This secret freedom offered us in all kinds of hidden events is the saving liberty of divine love.  It gushes from the side of the Word made flesh.  It is meant to ring through the whole of our existence, bringing every fiber of our being into its sacred harmony.  It is a canticle so beautiful that we find ourselves our old way of life mortally wounded while we are also animated by a new life totally other than this old tired world can hold down.

It is in this freedom of the Cross that the chorus of creation and the cacophony of sin are taken up in this new symphony of grace.  In the wonder of this divine melody something like the childlike freedom of real song, play and dance are unleashed into humanity: we, welcoming God's gift of Himself; He embracing us, as we give the gift of ourselves to Him and through Him to one another.

To glimpse the wonder of divine freedom at play and to have the freedom to join this dance, we must freely choose to exercise our faith.  This means deciding in each instant to fill this particular moment given to me right here and right now with all the love I can    Prayer, fasting and the works of mercy make space for this kind of freedom, this divine liberty in our humanity.   The more love we put into these holy exercises, the more we discover those hidden choices most open to the tender subtlety of His power.