HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B.
HOMILY THEME: OBEDIENCE IS TRUE FREEDOM
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
God created man in His image and likeness. The gift of freedom, which gives us the capacity to love, is what made us in the image and likeness of God. Unlike the rest of creation, man is not governed by his instincts. He has the power to choose. And God respects our freedom. He waits for our free response to His invitation to salvation. He cannot force us to accept His invitation. St. Augustine said: “Deus qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te.” (God, who created you without your cooperation, will not save you without your cooperation).
Unfortunately, many people do not have the proper understanding of the meaning of freedom. And because of this, freedom is not also properly used. There is widespread abuse of freedom. And this is the cause of so much trouble and misery in the world today.
The first problem is that people only think of freedom from something, and rarely thinks about freedom for something. They just want to get out, but once they are out, they do not know where to go. Hence the song: “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to?” It is the classic case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
And then there is confusion as to the meaning of freedom. There are three definitions of freedom. The first two definitions are false. The first one is this: “Freedom is the right to do whatever I please.” This is individualistic and selfish freedom, without regard for the welfare of others. I am free to break into the house of my neighbors, to run my car on the sidewalks, and to slap the face of the Pope. But as a rational being, should I do that? Yet there are people who stand by the principle, “As long as it makes you happy, there is nothing wrong with that!” I remember the words of a famous song entitled, “You Light Up My Life”. Towards the end of the song, it says, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right. ‘Cause you, you light up my life.” This is what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “dictatorship of relativism”. Definitely, this creates confusion and the destruction of human and social values. In order to avoid confusion, an external authority must come in to set the standards and rules for actions and behavior. This gave rise to the second false definition: “Freedom is the right to do whatever you must.” This is totalitarian freedom, which is not freedom at all. This is the basis of atheistic Communism. It seeks to destroy individual freedom for the sake of society. In a Communist society, the people have no choice but to obey the dictator.
But the right definition of freedom is: “Freedom is the right to do whatever we ought.” This is expressed in the philosophical dictum: “Agere sequitur esse” (Action follows being). The dog barks because it is a dog. To bark belongs to the nature of a dog. And it is free to bark because it ought to bark. As human beings, we were created by God with certain standards and ideals. These are the parameters of our actions and behavior, and within these parameters, we exercise our full potentials according to God’s plan for man. Freedom is within the law, not outside it. I am free to draw a triangle, but only if I draw three sides and not four sides, for that would not be a triangle anymore. I am free to fly, but on condition that I obey the laws of aeronautics.
In the spiritual realm, I am most free when I obey the law of God. If God created us according to His image and likeness, our lives ought to be vivid reflections of God. We are expected to be good and holy for that is what God created us to be. That is why Moral Theology defines freedom as “the power to do good.” Committing sin is not freedom; it is an abuse of freedom. When we sin, we lose our freedom; we become slaves of sin. This is what St. Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans (6:15-23). St. Augustine said: “Love God and then do whatever you please.” In other words, obedience to God does not take away our freedom; rather it perfects our freedom because it helps us to love God more perfectly and conform ourselves according to His image and likeness.
This is precisely the kind of freedom that Mary has shown when she accepted God’s invitation through the angel: “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Her obedience to God did not take away or limit her freedom; rather it perfected her freedom for it enabled her to conform herself to her original ideal as image and likeness of God. More importantly, however, her obedience is the fruit of her steadfast and indomitable faith in God. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed, “Blessed is who trusted that God’s words to her would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Her faith made it possible for her to obey the will of God, all the more perfecting her freedom as the most faithful image and likeness of God. This woman of faith, Mary of Nazareth, is the true model in our pilgrimage of faith. Mary is the second Eve. By her simple faith and unconditional fiat, she reversed the disobedience of the first Eve. While Eve brought sin and death, Mary, the New Eve, brought forth into the world the Savior of mankind. Mary undid what Eve has done. Hence, the name Eva was converted into Ave, the angel’s greeting to Mary.
Pope Benedict XVI has a beautiful insight on the importance of Mary in our life. He said that when Christ was born, every creature offered a sign of gratitude: the angels, a hymn; the heavens, a star; the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, admiration; the earth, a cave. But, asked the Holy Father, what about the human race? What do we have to offer to God? The Pope said that what we have to offer is the Virgin Mary herself. She is the greatest boast, the greatest honor of our human race. Si Maria ang “pambato” ng buong sangkatauhan. She shows what humanity is capable of. When we look at the Blessed Virgin Mary, we recognize the true capacity of our human nature.
This Sunday, let us look at Mary. She is the Mother of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ. She is also our Mother, our Model and our Inspiration. Let us thank God for giving us His Son Jesus and let us do this by offering Mary as our best gift, the greatest boast of mankind. And let us also ask her help so that we may use our God-given freedom properly. And most especially, let us imitate the example of Mary in her humble obedience that made her most free from all sins and most free to love God perfectly.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422