Even priests love three day weekends. “But Father,” you say, “priests only work one day a week, anyway!” While that might be true…it isn’t…everyone loves three day weekends. Memorial Day, Labor Day, this year’s 4th of July- we love it.
There is nothing worse than setting your alarm clock on Sunday night and realizing, “I accomplished nothing on my three day weekend.” There is nothing worse than a wasted three day weekend.
We approach the three day weekend with hope! On Thursday night we dream and scheme our every moment- the honey-do list that we never complete, that extra round of golf, fixing your flower bed, or that lazy afternoon on your porch with that half finished novel. A three day weekend offers freedom from every day life. And how fitting it is to think about freedom on this Fourth of July weekend.
The reason we can feel dissatisfied at the end of our three day weekends is because few things are as bitter as wasted freedom. Think back to your own bitter Sunday evenings after a squandered weekend. Or maybe it is countless summer breaks while you were a student. Few of us here do not know the taste of wasted freedom.
As Catholics we believe that God created us in his image and likeness. We believe that God created us free to choose the good and reject the bad. We have built-in taste buds for our freedom. We know when it is sweet and we know when it is bitter. This is our conscience.
But like our taste buds, our conscience can go wrong. We can be mistaken to think that Nacho-Cheese Doritos are good- and to an extent they are – but when we eat a whole bag- we are sick. Our taste buds, our appetite was malformed, broken, or sick. We rejected balanced food that would bring life and health to our bodies for a whole bag of Doritos, even though we know about the resulting stomachache.
When we exercise our freedom we have the power to do whatever we choose, like on Friday when we were off of work. Yet what we choose isn’t always what we need. Our choice was free, under no pressure, no boss, and no order but our own desires, and yet we ended up dissatisfied and empty, even frustrated that our freedom didn’t bring fulfillment. Simply having free choice and free time isn’t enough. We need something more.
Our own conscience, that faculty in our lives that weighs options and makes choices for what it thinks is good, sometimes fails us. This is the bitterest taste of all. We need something or even someone to walk with and guide our conscience. This is the offer Jesus makes to us in the Gospel today. No one knows true goodness except Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father- he has seen the Father- he has seen perfect goodness, truth, and beauty- and reveals the Father to us.
The way to freedom, life giving, satisfying freedom is to take up the yoke of Jesus Christ. Take your freedom, your power, and your abilities and join them to Jesus Christ. The spirit of the flesh that St. Paul talks about says there is no freedom in the yoke of Christ. This is the spirit of sin that deadens the taste of our conscience. This is the spirit that is opposed to Christ.
We hear that spirit tell us- there is no freedom in the yoke of Christ, only slavery and foolishness. St. Paul spent his life as an apostle fighting that spirit in his own heart. I am trying to fight that fight in my own life. Will you fight that fight with me? Will you fight that spirit of rebellion and take up the yoke of Christ? Under that yoke of Christ you will find true freedom; you will know what it means to be truly human.
Our own Pope Benedict fights that fight with us, “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship to we experience beauty and liberation.”