What—or Who—Sets Us Free?

Sin promises liberation. For example, sexual liberation, with slogans like “Express yourself”; “If it feels good, do it”; and “Make love, not war.”

Sin always extracts much more than it promises and fleetingly delivers, however. This reality is expressed in truisms, including “Moral absolutes substantiate themselves absolutely”; “God sometimes punishes us by letting us have our own way”; and “If we’re expressing love, why do I need to be protected?” I wrote an article for Catholic.com that was published on August 18, 2019. It was titled Give the Prince of Peace a Chance, with the subtitle Woodstock Waged Cultural War While Proclaiming Secular Peace. Please look it up at your convenience. In summary, cultural subversion can often have greater casualties than conventional warfare, with the impact extending beyond this world.

Sin Actually Enslaves

In today’s reading from Romans 6, St. Paul reminds us that the moral law is latex-immune, and so we inevitably inflict harm on others—and ourselves—when we engage in sexual vice, irrespective of whether an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease (STD), or some other unwelcome consequence results:

Brothers and sisters: Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness. . . . (Rom. 6:12—13)

Indeed, if sexual sin is truly loving and liberating, why does it need to be “safe”? We have as many masters as we have vices, says St. Augustine. That is, we are enslaved to our ingrained bad habits. As St. Paul teaches, sin always exacts us a heavy price:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)

Jesus Christ—the Truth—Sets Us Free, Now and Forever

Jesus promises that if we are faithful to His word, we will know the truth—namely, Him—and that He will set us free, both here on earth and always in the hereafter (John 8:31-32; 14:6). St. Paul says it another way in today’s First Reading, illustrating that only fidelity or “slavery” to God will yield true freedom:

But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:17–18)

In today’s Gospel from Luke 12:39–48, Jesus reaffirms that we can’t have it both ways, i.e., serving both ourselves and our vices, while also claiming to be his disciples. A little earlier in the same chapter, in the Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13–21), Jesus expresses the same lesson otherwise: we can’t “eat, drink, and be merry” on our own terms (12:19).

We are made in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer. He has our best interests at heart. So let us act accordingly, and help others to do the same (see Luke 12:48).

[Readings: Rom 6:12-18; Lk 12:39-48]

Tom Nash

Tom Nash is a Contributing Apologist and Speaker for Catholic Answers, and has served the Church professionally for more than 30 years. Tom is also a Contributing Blogger for the National Catholic Register and a Contributor for Catholic World Report. He formerly served as a Theology Advisor at EWTN and is the author of What Did Jesus Do?: The Biblical Roots of the Catholic Church (Incarnate Word Media), and The Biblical Roots of the Mass (Sophia Institute Press), and the forthcoming 20 Answers: The Rosary (Catholic Answers Press). Tom is also a Regular Member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

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