IF THE SON OF MAN SETS YOU FREE, YOU ARE FREE INDEED
First Reading: Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56
Gospel Reading: John 8:31-42
“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.” This quote made the Geneva-born political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, world-famous. This first line of Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” not only sums up his entire philosophical framework but also demonstrates how influential he is even now. Rousseau describes the natural man as being liberated, content, and residing in the forest in his writings. He describes how man evolved from this autonomous stage to the contemporary condition, which is characterized by injustice, reliance, violence, enslavement, and unhappiness. According to him, the chains of ignorance, superstition, and other factors have led to the enslavement of man. All men are born free, but when they are subjected to economic inequality, they lose that freedom. Even in the twenty-first century, society’s hierarchical structure serves as a chain that enslaves man. A newborn baby has no idea that society will drive him to extreme impoverishment and make it impossible for him to escape the slavery trap. The Social Contract makes an effort to address this issue. No society can be free unless its members recognize that the collective will or interest should take precedence over their own personal ones. Understanding this philosophical position of Rousseau and the need for true freedom can serve as a backdrop for understanding Christ’s mission in the world to set us free from sin. Born with the chains of sin, man seeks freedom. Little wonder, in his Mission statement, Jesus exclaimed: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…” (Lk. 4:18ff). This liberating mission of Christ is what the liturgical readings present to us.
In today’s Gospel (cf. John 8:36), we hear him say to the Jews, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. Here, Jesus declares himself to be the source of true freedom. It is Jesus who can free us from the enslavement of sin; through the gift of the Spirit, he can empower us to live as God wants us to live, to love as God loves, and to be perfect as God is perfect. Needless to say, he has liberated us to walk in relationship with God and to be the kind of people he created us to be. And this is the freedom that sin had long denied us. In the First Reading (cf. Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28), we see the freedom enjoyed by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they made the right decision against idolatry, while the rest who worship the golden statue got enslaved to sin. This explains why in the Gospel, Jesus told the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of his day, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin”. Jesus was asserting that we are all under the power and control of a natural tendency to sin; we can’t get away from it by ourselves.
Dear friends in Christ, in this season of Lent, we can find freedom from the penalty and power of sin through the power of Christ’s death on the Cross as the payment for our sin. As we submit to Christ through the Sacraments, sin loses its power, and we enjoy true freedom; which in the Pauline language is called ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God’, the freedom to live in accordance with God’s purpose for our lives. This is authentic freedom in Christ through the Spirit he pours into our hearts. Therefore, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17).
Nevertheless, it’s remarkably easy to take freedom for granted when you have it. Hence, we must not abuse our freedom. As we journey through Lent, and gradually approaching the Holy Week, may the freedom we enjoy in Christ lead us to acts that give glory to God, just as the three young men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) did in the heart of the fire, as we see in the portion we read for the psalms (cf. Daniel 3:52-56) “You are blest, Lord God of our fathers. To you glory and praise forevermore.”
© By Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo.
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?