Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Authentic Freedom"

XI Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. ReardonYear B
14 June 2015
Year B

In Catholic circles, we often speak of a war that is going on in our world today. The war is within. It is a battle waged between our sinful nature and becoming truly free. This freedom is not a freedom from – from rigidity, from oppression, from the law – no, real freedom is a freedom to live as we have been created – a freedom for Christ, for a true and authentic humanity. This is why we are at war within ourselves. We fight the battles of temptation, vice, and sin so that we can become free of them. Freed from the slavery of sin and vice we become more fully the men and woman God has created us to be – we become our true selves. This is what makes the practice of virtue, moral living, prayer and the deepening of our relationship with Jesus Christ, Mass and the reception of Holy Communion, going to confession – both on a regular basis – so important in our lives of faith.

This Catholic notion of the struggle for authentic freedom comes against the backdrop of a culture that promotes as its “virtues” hedonism, minimalism, and individualism. For example, the Bruce Jenner story. The mainstream media is celebrating a man who claims that his inner self is really a woman and has been his whole life. The story puts him at the center of attention. But for what purpose? So that he can look like a woman? So that he can feel and look beautiful? Does this not only fuel the fire of individualism and hedonism? Does he not simply objectify himself by doing so? Notice something – he pits his inner self against his outward appearance. Therefore he can manipulate it as he sees fit. This is Gnosticism – the belief that matter – the body – is evil and the soul is enslaved or trapped inside the body until, through knowledge (gnosis) it is freed. In a recent article on the subject Fr. Robert Barron made this comment:
“…this point of view is directly repugnant to Biblical Christianity, which insists emphatically upon the goodness of matter… For Biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul’s manipulation. Moreover, the mind or will is not the “true self” standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.”

While it may seem like St. Paul, in the second reading of the Mass, is advocating for a body vs. soul struggle, he really is expressing his thought about mortal (life on earth) and eschatological (life in heaven) existence. It is not a contrast of body vs. soul but rather human existence in this world vs. living by the life one receives in faith. In the mind of St. Paul our lives here on this side of eternity are constantly being given over to death so that our true selves may be purified, renewed, and made glorious in the faith of Jesus Christ. In other words, we put to death the deeds of the flesh in order to live by the Spirit. And this is precisely why we “aspire to please him”. We do so, “whether at home or away” – in both body and soul.

This is what people like Bruce Jenner need to hear. The Catholic struggle is one in which we desire and strive to become our true selves – to become the men and women we have been created to be. We do so, not by manipulation but by faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” St. Paul tells us. Our true and authentic selves are manifest in the light of our faith in the Risen Lord, for we are a unity of body and soul. And so, we look to Him for inner freedom, authentic humanity, and for salvation. This is what makes the practice of self-discipline, asceticism, and virtue so important because that which we do in our bodies matters to God. He does not want us to become slaves to hedonism. He does not want us to free ourselves, He wants to save us – for His grace, the grace of true freedom, builds upon our human nature and thus sets us on a path to perfection in and through our humanity – our bodies.

You see, our primary orientation is not to self but to God. This is the Christian path to perfection and salvation. Let our lives be a reflection of the faith we profess so as to be free – to be our true selves, holy and beloved in the eyes of God, in word and deed, body and soul.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

See other homilies of Fr. Jon Reardon...
Return to multimedia home...

SCTJM logo
Return to main page