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Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 9: 51-62

Everyone wants to be free. Children don’t like being told when to go to bed or what vegetables to eat! Teenagers look forward to having their driver’s licence and the freedom it will bring.

Jesus was a free Man. He grew up in a religion that imposed strict restraints on people, but He refused to be bound by petty meaningless rules. He lived in a nation that was under the heel of Rome but He was not intimidated by those in authority. He pursued His own course with all the freedom of a bird in flight.

In today’s Gospel we read that He firmly resolved to proceed towards Jerusalem. It was a strange decision when He knew what was waiting for Him there. He had already told His Apostles that He would be put to death. Why did He go, when He was free not to go? The answer is that Jesus was bound by a loyalty that compelled Him to make that final journey. In His prayers He acknowledged His Father had planned that He was to die at the hands of His enemies. This was the way He was to restore us to our Father in Heaven. This meant that He exercised His freedom so that He could be loyal to the demands of His Father. With Jesus liberty and loyalty went hand in hand.

Saint Augustine laid down a great principle, “Love God, and do as you please.” It means dedicate yourself to the Highest and the best, loving God, doing that first and then you can do as you please. This is the reason why Jesus went to Jerusalem. He wanted to be loyal to His Father, knowing that the Cross awaited Him there. He knew what His Father wanted Him to do and nothing was going to stop Him.

All of us want to be happy but some of us have the mistaken notion that liberty alone can give us that happiness. Unbridled and undisciplined freedom must surely be the saddest way to live our lives. It is our loyalties that make life rich and meaningful. Take a woman with a child. She belongs to that child. She has given her whole life to rearing her child. Then one day the child dies. Now she is free. She can come and go as she pleases. There is no cry at night to disturb her sleep. No childish needs demand her attention. But this woman is now heartbroken over her new-found freedom. This liberty is the heaviest burden she has borne. If we could give her back her child, she would be the happiest woman in the world. Would Jesus be happy without His sense of obligation? Most certainly not.

Holy Spirit, help us to understand that the only freedom worth having is to give ourselves to the people and the good causes we love, and that we can never separate liberty from loyalty.

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