Summary: Becoming the best version of ourselves also involves fleeing from sin and the occasions of sin.
Laetare Sunday 2014
For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free
From the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and shout, you who are not in travail;
for the children of the desolate one are many more
than the children of her that is married.” 28 Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 30 But what does the scripture say? “Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. 1 For freedom Christ has set us free;
A continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John:
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberi-as. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!”
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
This year we have been blessed to participate in a study of the four characteristics of the dynamic Catholic. Matthew Kelly identifies them as prayer, study, generosity and evangelistic fervor. Since this is the fifth Sunday of March, and we have heard about these four, I will be focusing on a fifth characteristic that underlies and supports all four of the others. The dynamic and effective Catholic hates and flees from sin. We cannot become the best version of ourselves, we cannot be images of God as Jesus and Mary were unless we do what we or our parents promised for ourselves in Baptism: avoid sin. Why? St. Paul tells us the reason today–sin is slavery to evil. The more we sin, the more we are attracted to sin, and the less do we get any pleasure out of sin. Ultimately, that sin becomes a vicious habit we feel trapped in. In time, that sin becomes a personal hell on earth.
Why, if we are baptized, confirmed, have received first communion and professed faith in Jesus Christ, why do we sin? The sacraments give us what our first parents lost in the Garden of Eden. They bring us sanctifying grace, a participation in the divine life, that makes us pleasing to God and–because of the sacrifice of Christ which we celebrate every Mass–makes us fit to enjoy eternal happiness in the bosom of Christ. But we are still laboring with the moral effects of Original Sin. We are constantly distracted from the greatest good, God, by lesser goods, and hobbled by our own self-will. We are drawn away from good deeds and toward evil ones that, in our weakened state, seem pleasurable. We have a moral attention span measured in milliseconds. Spiritually, all of us are attention-deficit disordered. That’s why we come to Mass every week, or more often. It’s not because we consider ourselves spiritually wonderful. It’s because we know ourselves to be unbelievably weak, and we need the healing, strengthening power of Christ.