If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

8th Sunday of Year A

 8th. SUNDAY (A)
(Isaiah 49:14-15; 1st. Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34)

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Today’s Gospel reading is of supreme importance for our personal well-being, for two of the greatest plagues of modern times, the greatest obstacles to us living our human and our Christian lives to the full, are distractions -- leading directly to superficiality -- and, derivatively, ‘cares of the world’ -- worrying over what is past, self-solicitude for the present, and anxiety about what the future might hold – all of which, together, make effective self-commitment to God and His purposes impossible, as can be found in the lives of so many nominal Catholics and Christians today.

Our modern world, of course, becoming ever more at variance with the Lord, boasts about its ability to provide endless distractions (and thereby generate endless money!), whilst denying, indeed, mocking the very suggestion, that there is or can be any institutional contributing cause for the sickness and pain of indecisiveness and anxiety in the lives of so many.
Jesus is quite clear and decisive in His teaching:

Your heavenly Father knows (all your needs); seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

However, those words ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’ take a degree of commitment and selflessness which – though God gives fully and freely what we, in faith and good-will, can only want and begin to attempt – are precisely what our modern society would deprive us of.

Today, young children and, indeed, even infants, are – through the media which delights to detail, dramatize, and magnify -- made aware of and excited by what is going on around them long before they are able to recognize, understand, and rightly appreciate what is going on within themselves.  How few children are fortunate enough to be guided by their mothers – uniquely naturally endowed and also spiritually empowered to respond to and guide their child’s first, most sensitive and tentative, experiences of human life -- to an awareness and appreciation of the deep and calming influence of what is both lovely and ordinary, as well as to a humbling experience of joy, admiration, and awe before the exuberance of what is wonderful in nature and her seasons!  Again, how few children have a mother or father who is willing and able to introduce them into an awareness of the sublime yet fragile glory of human relationships which form the fabric of daily human living and, indeed, offer -- on the basis of a concomitant responsibility, itself both beautiful and formative – what is life’s great experience of natural and spiritual fulfilment?    How many are blessed to find themselves in a family where a truly Catholic appreciation and love of Jesus’ Person and teaching is a light and joy, a guide for the understanding of what is beautiful and true, a strength and support in all difficulties and trials, and a banner evoking gratitude and love, loyalty and self-sacrifice?

We find, alas, so many are wrapped up, mixed up, enmeshed and embroiled, in internet activities, secretly or even publicly, acerbic and disturbing; or else fixated on the television which -- frequently and unashamedly -- stirs up with seductive and violent emphasis what most young people cannot deal with aright because they have not become able, perhaps never had the opportunity, to gradually discover and learn what it is to be in tune, and at home, with their own personal self and individual make-up.  So many are ill-at-ease with themselves, needing endless ‘things to do’, to occupy their thoughts and temporarily distract their imagination, lest the ever-threatening background danger of self-preoccupation with its kaleidoscope of vague, unrecognizable fears, might raise its head against them.  As a result they are strongly tempted to taste and seek to enjoy some of the many passing satisfactions, irresponsible pleasures, and fleeting consolations, being touted and displayed in a continuous stream on the screen before them and in the late night, back-street, society around them; all of which bring nothing more than a multiplicity of shallow satisfactions and passing moments of pseudo-exaltation, before ebbing away and leaving behind, as wages of sin or worldly inheritance, a numbing sense of frustration, emptiness, and disenchantment.

Today Jesus seeks to protect us from, or invites us to face up to, such situations.   Life is not meant to be a warren with dark corridors leading hither and thither into ever further darkness and threat.  He speaks to us as Lord and Master with words that are sure and true:

No man can serve two masters; he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.

Jesus lived and died with the words of Israel’s psalms in His heart and on His lips, and often in the Gospels He seeks to pass on to us, wants to share with us, some of the blessings He Himself had gained from living those words to the full.  Today’s is one such psalm:

Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from Him comes my hope.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.   I shall not be disturbed. 

Notice those final words: ‘I shall not be disturbed’; they indicate a deliberately willed purpose, not an expected, automatic, or merely hoped-for, result; and if we look at Jesus we can see how He Himself followed the psalmist’s lead, and we may, perhaps, even glimpse thereby something of His Personal relationship with His Father in Heaven:

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

He must have often seen and thought upon what He saw when the birds were fluttering above and around Him, and as He observed them His thoughts would  turn to His Father, their habitual resting place … ‘they do not sow but My heavenly Father feeds them’.

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  But not even Solomon in all his splendour was clothed … as God has clothed them, the grass of the field.

Again, He must frequently have admired the simple beauty of Israel’s flowers,  and always His thoughts would turn in gratitude to, and rest confidently with, His Father …. ‘I shall not be disturbed’.

Jesus’ love for His Father was total and unremitting … He saw what was beautiful or good and immediately His life’s compass swung to His Father in admiration and praise; and when He looked upon what was evil He would compassionate His Father:

            Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

Ultimately, love is the only guarantee that we will never be subject … despite our sinfulness and inherent weakness … to the domination and dichotomy of two masters.  It is love alone which can give us the initial strength and courage to take on what we might possibly admire but could never undertake.  But such love we have to work at … ‘I shall not be disturbed’ … and when we wish to work at it, we must be absolutely sure that we are, indeed, working for the love of it, not for the wanting of it … we must be working for that total love for God, not the peace of soul and strength of character such an acquisition might hopefully bring to us ourselves.

If we now turn to St. Paul we will see, and wonder at, of his oneness with Jesus’ teaching … for we are all surely aware of our human sensitivity to the opinion of others, and even more especially might that have been felt by Paul, since his work did not involve objective skills, tangible powers, but was totally concerned and involved with people, affecting them and indeed changing them through his proclamation of the Good News … would not his ability, success, and effectiveness as an Apostle be inextricably linked with his personal charm and popularity?

But in blunt contradiction with any such thoughts or suppositions, Paul tells us:

It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or by any human tribunal.

Paul was in no way subject to human opinion!  Indeed, in that respect one can say that he was dead to men.  He served but one Master apparently.  And yet, I say ‘apparently’ because there is still another, hidden, tribunal by which he might be affected and influenced and diverted, even corrupted, in his discipleship … but he goes on immediately to totally repel any such thought:

I do not even pass judgement on myself; but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the One who judges me is the Lord.

Paul was sublimely simple: no reflecting on himself, his success or his failings.  He was indeed, a most wonderful disciple of Jesus His Lord … one dead to the world and even to himself for love of Jesus:

I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ    (Philippians 3:8)

Jesus would say at the height of His torments and dereliction:

            Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

St. Paul, as a supreme disciple, would likewise say:

I know the One in Whom I have put my trust, and I am sure He is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to Him. (2 Timothy 1:12)

Such examples do most surely inspire us, but the only way for us to respond is the way of love.  Parents, lead, guide, encourage, your children to recognize, appreciate, respond to, what is beautiful, good, and true in life.  As they grow up and need rules for guidance and strength show them the truth, love, and the beauty behind and above such rules.  Obedience, to be sure, is at times absolutely necessary as our ultimate defence and surest guide, but its deepest authority and power should be based on love and should express love. 

(Brothers and sisters in Christ) whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   (Philippians 4:8)

And so, my dear People of God, may Jesus’ final words in today’s Gospel inspire us to go out from Holy Mass today with loving purpose, firm hope, and most joyful confidence, to advance more surely on our life-long endeavour to:

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness;  and
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbour - Jesus Christ your Saviour - as yourself.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

7th Sunday of Year (A) 2014

7th. Sunday (A)

(Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)

Today’s Gospel reading is indeed, to say the very least, most striking; but who could put it into practice?   Is it practical?  How did Our Blessed Lord intend it to be understood and be of most benefit to His disciples?

Obviously, I don’t pretend to answer such questions definitively, but I will -- indeed I should -- offer some suggestions, some observations, to be borne in mind when thinking, and above all when praying, about these and other like words of Our Lord.

It is not to be expected that Mother Church should always and at any given time have a clear and full understanding of everything Our Lord said and did.  She infallibly teaches and spiritually endows her children that they might live to the full all the essentials of Christian life; but the broad extent and wondrous beauty of the gifts bestowed on her by the Spirit of Jesus abiding with her and in her is beyond measure.  Moreover, she lives by the Spirit and is ever developing in the service and understanding of her Lord; with the result that there is much in her treasure-house that we – little children of Mother Church and sincere, though still fragile, disciples of Jesus – can only gradually become truly aware of and learn to love aright, through a developing experience of discipleship in this world, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Who, precisely, is God’s Gift to the Church that He might lead her into all truth, as He lovingly recalls to our minds for her appreciation all that Jesus said and did.

Let us, therefore, try to recall other teaching and examples given by Our Lord, other truths of Holy Scripture, other examples of God’s saints and doctors; and as we do so, let us prayerfully invoke the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

We can first briefly recall an episode from 1st. Book of Maccabees (1:41, 43), where a problem, such as occupies us at present, weighed heavily on patriotic and faithful Israelites subject, at that time, to an alien, pagan, power attempting to force them to abandon theirHH
 faith and their traditional practices:

The king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many Israelites were in favour of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath.  

There, under the Old Covenant, the People of God decided that they must defend themselves and their religion thus threatened with extinction; indeed, later they would again feel obliged to defend themselves by fighting, if and when necessary, even on the Sabbath.

However, that took place, as I said, under the old covenant, and is not directly relevant to us who are disciples of Jesus not followers of Moses.

In the Gospel of St. John (18:22s.), however, we have something much more pertinent:

When Jesus said this (to the High Priest), one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ’Is that how you answer the High Priest?’  Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?’

Now that was a perfect opportunity for Our Lord to exemplify the literal observance of His own words:

            If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well;

but, as you have heard, He did not do so.

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Christian community he had founded at Corinth, says in two places (11:1 and 4:16):

            Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
 I urge you, be imitators of me.

Again, in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1:5-6) he writes:

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord. 

What kind of man, then, was Paul who set out to instruct the first Christian communities not only by his teaching but also, and quite explicitly, by his personal example?

We can, first of all, turn to St. Luke’s account concerning Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (23:2-3):

The High Priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by Paul to strike him on the mouth.  Then Paul said to him, ‘God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall!  Are you sitting to judge one according to the Law, and yet, contrary to the Law, you order me to be struck!’

Again, there was a remarkable opportunity for the literal fulfilment of Our Lord’s advice or command, but St. Paul did not subscribe to such a literal interpretation it would seem.

On another occasion, he even made – or wanted to make – provision for the deciding of grievances between brethren within the community at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:1, 5), so as to avoid the scandal of brethren choosing to sue each other before pagan judges:

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?   Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood? 

And so, it would seem that, in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord was indicating – but not necessarily illustrating -- what sort of spirit should animate the children of God’s kingdom.  And it is, consequently, quite possible that we are wrong to look for precise instructions as regards our own personal behaviour in particular cases: if someone strikes you on the cheek, do this; or, if another seeks to take your tunic, do this; or again, if someone were to order you to go one mile with him, do this.

Perhaps Our Lord – being in a position to use but a very few human words to indicate and promote the spirit that should motivate all His followers throughout the world and throughout all time – was really preparing them to learn how, under the leading of His Spirit, to rightly decide for themselves how and when to act in all the various circumstances of life as true disciples of, and faithful witnesses to, Himself.   In other words, He was preparing them to gradually acquire the ability to recognize surely and respond appropriately, sponte sua, to whatever guidance His Spirit might give them in order that they should both bear true witness to their Lord and Master, and attain thereby, fully and perfectly, the end eternally planned for them.

For such an interpretation of Our Lord’s words we can again turn to St. Paul when, speaking elsewhere (1 Corinthians 7:40) about himself, he did not hesitate to say:

            I think that I have the Spirit of God.

In his letter to the Romans (12:17-21), Paul thus interprets Our Lord:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.   If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”   Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

There we have, I believe, the essential point of Jesus’ teaching given us in the Gospel for today --- but that does not mean that a literal interpretation is totally excluded; indeed, it may be that, as we follow the Spirit, He might lead us -- if we have become sufficiently docile to His call and responsive to His influence -- into a literal understanding and fulfilment of Our Lord’s words, and thus literally turn the other cheek, give to all who ask, more than comply with the unjust demands made on us.  Such would seem to have been St. Paul’s attitude when, after making arrangements, so to speak, for lawsuits between Christians to be judged within the community, he went on to say:

It is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?   (1 Corinthians 6:7)

However, until we are at the desired level of union with God, Jesus’ literal words can, and perhaps should, be understood more broadly while, nonetheless, still engendering and expressing the essential spirit of Christ and His Kingdom.  Thus -- far from possibly crushing the broken reed – they will advantageously establish us on a sure basis of humility that alone can open up and solidly support a future full of hope and God-given possibilities.

For a final, and perhaps a more truly comprehensive appreciation of Our Blessed Lord’s intentions, let us turn back to the Gospel reading again, for there He gave what was most certainly His supreme teaching and desire for us:

            Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect!

And such perfection He said was to be found and expressed in:

            Loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.

All those other gestures -- offering no resistance, turning the other cheek, handing over not only one’s tunic but also one’s cloak – are only pleasing and acceptable to God in so far as they are pure expressions of Christian love.  At times, and under suitable circumstances, they could, indeed, be supremely authentic expressions of Jesus’ guiding Spirit in our life; at other times however -- times, that is, of our own choosing -- they could be nothing more than human gestures betraying spiritual ambition and self-exaltation.

A true mother will always be prepared to sacrifice herself for her child’s good; but at other times she might be quite strict and unyielding, as was once the case with me in my childhood.  It seems I was insistent on wanting to put pepper on my dinner myself.  My mother explained that she had already put enough on for me; but, nevertheless, I wanted to shake the pepper out myself.  She finally gave way to my insistence and indulged me.  I shook out pepper with gusto and then, of course, did not like the result.  Then my mother showed her true love for me by insisting that I ate what was before me!!  I don’t think I ever made the same mistake again!

And so, the psalmist said today:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

Dear People of God, Our Lord is the font of all goodness, beauty, and truth for us; His sublime words, however, can only be truly appreciated in the context of Mother Church’s living tradition and teaching, and only carried into effect under the Holy Spirit’s discerning wisdom and sustaining power.  Let us, therefore, give heartfelt thanks to God for Mother Church; and -- humbling our native pride and forgetting our self-solicitude – let us, with her, open up our hearts and minds and commit our very selves to the guiding Spirit of Jesus ever interceding on our behalf before the heavenly Father Who, in His great mercy and loving kindness, calls and draws us by His Spirit and wills to ultimately crown us in His Son with a filial share in their triune glory and eternal beatitude.isol



Wednesday, 12 February 2014

6th Sunday of the Year (1) 2014

 6th. Sunday of Year (1)

(Sirach 15:15-20; 1st. Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5: 17-37)

As we look around the world today we see some amazing things not only happening as current expressions of perennial human weakness and wickedness, but, much more disconcertingly, we find such things becoming increasingly accepted as part of tolerable, if not normal, behaviour in our modern society.  We hear of plans to clone babies, and of couples waiting for the opportunity to have a child in such a way; of babies being fostered by gay or lesbian couples, a baby girl with two men or vice-versa; or again of babies being bought and sold on the internet.  We read of people living long in our earthly nirvana and yet finding themselves, or being found by their relatives, as a burden too great to endure, and so they make arrangements, or relatives are led to think of plans, for their assisted exit from this life.  Again, in our society there are numbers of people who so love animals that they will threaten to bomb -- perhaps killing or maiming -- human beings who do not subscribe to their radical, not to say fanatical, way of thinking; and it is a very ordinary, world-wide practice, for subversive organizations to bomb, maim, and kill, innocent people in order to draw attention to their particular causes without any sense of guilt or trace of compassion. Even our own, we think to be relatively decent, young people, can sometimes show little or no compunction about kicking someone near to death, if they become involved somewhere in random, unplanned and unanticipated, violence.  Yob gangs, however, of cities, towns, or even at times rural localities, will not scruple to mug, beat, and kill individual men both young and old, to abuse and rape women, girls, and even children, to satisfy their rampant pride and unbridled passions of all sorts.
Sorrowfully recalling these things, and many others like them, to mind, we wonder at times what is happening to our world.  How can people come to behave so badly and think in such strange ways?  How can a sheep, cut in half and preserved in a glass tank, be regarded as art?  How is it that apparently formless groups of bricks or concrete blocks can be piled up in some unrecognisable manner and then put forward and even sponsored for the admiration of the more or less normally gifted and balanced public?
How difficult it is for parents to bring up young people in such a society!  And how very difficult it must be for young people themselves, growing up in such a society and open to the world-wide reach and menacing threat of the internet!!   Who, what, can protect, guide and sustain them in right ways?  With such a question in mind we can appreciate the words and the thought of the psalmist who said (Ps. 119:105):
          Your word, Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. 
Moses, having led Israel across the lonely desert where she had been guided, protected and nourished, by God alone, towards the Promised Land where he knew she would inevitably be surrounded by pagan powers and pagan practices, most earnestly wanted to forewarn and protect his people as we would dearly love to do for ours.  It was a concern to which he gave expression shortly before his death:

Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6)

Then he added words that most certainly should impress and concern each and every parent and committed Catholic present here today, words which might even strike some of us to the heart both piercingly and painfully:
However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children. (Deuteronomy 4:9)
Jesus, our leader through the desert of this sinful world, Jesus the all-holy Son of God made man, has yet stronger advice and warning for us, as you heard in the Gospel reading where He authoritatively declared:
Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
In later Judaism that valediction of Moses came to be regarded above all as a harbinger of danger by the Pharisees and Scribes, with the promise and challenge they offered being, in comparison, overlooked.  That is why Jesus, for His part, went on to tell us:
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
People of God, we Catholics are in a fluctuating, transitional, and dangerous situation today.  We have experienced times when it was widespread among Catholics to imitate the Scribes and Pharisees by looking upon God’s commandments as more of a warning, even a hidden threat, rather than as an opportunity, a challenge indeed, but also a wondrous promise.  The Pharisees, with great effort and industry, built up a hedge, as they called it, a hedge of human prescriptions and practices which they thought would -- if observed and maintained -- preserve the children of Israel from any danger of failing in their observance of the Law to the fullness of its literal acceptance.  Jesus, however, spoke with feeling about such methods of teaching, saying (Matthew 23:4):
They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
There he was sympathizing with those thus burdened; but at another time He openly attacked the Pharisees for concocting such loads for others (Mark 7:6-8):
Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.
So too in the Church at particular epochs the commandments of men have been brought in to shore-up, so to speak, the commandments of God and of His Church: practices of devotion were thought up and urged upon others which were, indeed, meant to protect the commandments, but which ended up, in practice, by stifling the people.  The result has been that some, especially the young, rebelled against such burdens, while others initially embraced them but in the end gave them up in disillusionment or despair.  That situation then provoked a reaction from certain well-meaning clerics and teachers of various sorts who tried to help the lapsed or lapsing return to the practice of the Faith by watering-down ‘requirements’.  Unfortunately, at times they tried not only to make lighter the load of human recommendations, but also went on to water down the very commandments of God: and so today, as a result, some people find themselves in a state of flux not really knowing when to be firm and steadfast, or how to adapt and develop.
There are two great commandments in our practice of the Christian and Catholic way of life.  The one was much cited in past centuries, and was first given us in the Scriptures, where Samuel said, in the name of the Lord, to the errant king Saul (1 Samuel 15:22):
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice.
And today, that command still remains as valid as ever for Pope, priests and people, for our children and their offspring.
The other great commandment was afforded us by the sublime example of our Blessed Lord Jesus Himself and expressed most memorably by the beautiful words of St. Paul when he wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (13:11-13):
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The legitimate developments of modern theology too help us towards the fulfilment of this commandment of love by strongly reminding us that we, being made in the image of God, are free; indeed we are essentially made for freedom.  In this, modern theology is only restating words from our Lord Himself Who said to some Jews aspiring to follow Him as His disciples (John 8:31-32, and 36):
If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free; (and) if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
This teaching of Jesus was reiterated with emphasis by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and to the Galatians:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
However, we must be aware, dear People of God, that the word “freedom” is both much misunderstood and widely abused today, and therefore we must be careful to understand aright the Christian appreciation of freedom: its whole purpose and meaning is to enable us -- both truly and fully, both humanly and divinely -- to love and serve God in and above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves; and in so doing, to enable each of us to become our own authentic self as individually planned, willed, loved and saved, by God for His greater glory.
That is the supreme challenge and most glorious promise for us in our life here on earth, to learn -- despite the morass and chaos brought about by our own and humanities’ sins past and present -- under the guidance and power of the Spirit of Jesus, how to love God the Father, and become His true children in Jesus.  And in order to fulfil that glorious privilege and calling we have to hold firm both to God’s commandments and to our divine endowment of freedom.  We cannot become children of God by disobeying His commandments, commands Jesus explicitly said He did not come to abolish but to fulfil; we cannot walk in the ways of Jesus by ignoring His teaching in the Scriptures opened up to us in and by His Holy Church, for we are only brought to life in Jesus by the Spirit as members of His Body, the Church.   We must therefore, hold firm to God’s commandments in His Church.  We must also hold firm to our freedom with regard to the customs and commandments, the popular practices and persuasions, of men: for we have been made free for God: we can choose among and between human prescriptions as we will, but always and only with this supreme aim and aspiration in mind: to learn to love God with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength in Jesus. 
Notice that I say learn to love God, because none of us -- of ourselves -- knows how to love Him aright.  That is why Mother Church has been given to us and we to her: we have to learn how to love God as He wills to be loved, and we can only learn that with our brethren in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and our Mother, and which, as such, is alone fully endowed with the Holy Spirit of Love.  For the Spirit alone, the Holy Spirit of Love, given us by Jesus and working in and through Mother Church in the life of each one of us, can make us holy.  Human practices can help but they may also hinder, and in any case they can never make us holy.  Holiness is loving God in self-forgetfulness; true holiness is delighting in God above all and in all.  It is a gift, a grace, from the One Who is, Personally, the Gift of God.  That is the only way in which our righteousness can, and will, surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees as Jesus demanded.  Their righteousness was admirable in many respects but it was a legal, human, and ultimately, a self-contrived and self-exalting righteousness.  Our righteousness, on the other hand, to be authentic, can only be received as a gift from the Father, bestowed by the Spirit, upon those whose supreme desire is to be found in heaven as His true children in Jesus, His only-begotten and uniquely beloved, Son; and on earth, as true members and defenders of Mother Church, Jesus’ ultimate bequest to all His disciples:
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’   (John 19:26s.)