The Way, the Truth and the Life

Dear Friends in Christ:

I always try to avoid using Styrofoam cups and plates. I am not 100% successful and sometimes one does not have choice, but I do avoid them when I can. What bothers me about them is not just the cost (you are literally throwing money away) but what they represent. We live in a throw away culture. It is not just plastic cups and plates, but it is ideas, traditions, values and ultimately people that are too easily discarded and abandoned for the sake of convenience or ease. Too often we trash things that we simply do not appreciate or understand. In our modern age, the notions of freedom and change are almost interchangeable. In our contemporary culture, we highly value freedom and change. They are part of the ideology of progress. Both freedom and change are good, but only in their proper and correct context. When the notions of freedom and change are distorted or when we lose the proper context, the consequences can be disastrous for ourselves, for others and for society.

Our Christian Faith actually has some very profound and important teachings concerning freedom and the importance and necessity of change. Jesus tells us the truth will set us free (Jn 8.32). He also calls us to change (Mt 18.3). In fact, the entire call to discipleship is a call of continuing conversion and the Christian life is a life of freedom. But distorted notions of freedom and needless change are detrimental to us and to our vocation of reaching the destiny, fulfillment and ultimate happiness that God desires for us. Very simply put, our society and culture views freedom as a “freedom from” – we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do or as is so inelegantly phrased today “You do you”. What if I am a bank robber, a serial killer, a pathological liar or a scoundrel? Is this real freedom? Does freedom really mean that I am not subject to and can disregard the natural law or divine law or positive law? Can I really change for no other reason than I want to change? Is that really good? Can I change from being married to single and not care about my spouse or children? Can I change jobs or homes regardless if I can afford them or not just because I want to? Is that really good? Is my personal desire the ultimate criterion upon which all decisions must rest?

For us as Christians and believers, freedom is not so much “freedom from” but “freedom to”. What we are free to do is not whatever we want. That is not true freedom. Actions have consequences. Rights are rooted in responsibility. As human beings we are free and given the gift of freedom to do the good, the right, the holy. Failure to exercise freedom properly or following a distorted notion of freedom leads not to happiness and fulfillment but to slavery, un-fulfillment and unhappiness. God gives us free will so that we may choose to follow Him and enjoy the liberty of loving Him. It is embracing and living the truth that sets us free, not our own particular version of the truth. What is so sad is that so many Christians have been deluded and have willingly bought into the nonsense of “what is true for me is true for me and what is true for you is true for you!” Authentic Christianity follows Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14.6)
While ever so popular, our culture’s theme song is arguably Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way”. Consider the lyrics sung by “old blue eyes”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels.
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.
Yes, it was my way.

Now compare them to the words of Jesus,

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits his very self?”

The choice is this, do we do it “my way” or Jesus’ way? What do we throw away and what do we keep? What truly makes us free and what changes are worth it?

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately