The 12 sets of eyes staring back at me pondered the question: What would happen if at your next soccer game, there were no rules? You could pick up the ball with your hands if you wanted to, even if you weren’t the goalie. There’d be no out-of-bounds at all. And, the score would be whatever you wanted it to be.
One boy’s jaw dropped. A little girl giggled.
The students in The Soulful Catholic’s catechism class were puzzled by this hypothetical prospect. “It wouldn’t work!” one kid exclaimed. “It wouldn’t be any fun,” the boy next to him declared.
Goal! High-five, kids!
I held up the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “In this class, you’re going to learn a lot about our faith. You’ll learn about the rules God gave us for living. But the most important thing you need to know is that Jesus Christ died for our sins to set us free and open the gates of heaven for us. He is calling each one of you to follow Him, and His heart burns with love for you.
“In this life we can choose to be selfish or we can choose God. If we choose Him, He gives us real freedom — a freedom the world can never take away.”
This lesson about the true nature of freedom is something that bears repeating, not just for catechism students, but for everyone alive, especially here in America where we champion the cause of freedom.
Unfortunately, a twisted notion of freedom has become the premise for the moral freefall taking place in America right now. God created us to be free and to live in freedom, but it’s critical to understand what true freedom is.
For starters, it has nothing to do with redefining marriage or gender or human life. It has nothing to do with the howling of pro-choice advocates decrying the new Texas law outlawing abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. It has nothing to do with recreational marijuana or pornography.
Nope. But then, when we’ve had decades of the popular culture denying objective truth, it’s not surprising that there’s a sense of confusion over the meaning of freedom. We are free to choose sin because God gave us the gift of free will, but sin will never lead us to freedom.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this little gem: “There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just (1731 CCC).”
In other words, true freedom consists in doing the right thing. Now, that might sound a little too convenient, like something your catechism teacher might make up on the fly to justify the thou-shall-not proscriptions of the faith, but then again, cynicism never leads us to the truth.
The truth is that the more we do the right thing, the freer we actually become. And yes, truth is objective. You can’t bend it, as many insist.
Look around us in the world today where the purveyors of a false freedom urge us to indulge ourselves and tell us we can do whatever we want “as long as we don’t hurt anyone.” (That little disclaimer basically consists in doing whatever you want as long as it doesn’t land you in prison.)
Well, you can ignore the Ten Commandments and do whatever you want, but that doesn’t end well.
Jesus shows us the way to true freedom by His example of fasting. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read how Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert. At the end of the fast, St. Matthew tells us Jesus was hungry. That’s when the devil steps in to tempt Him. Jesus rejected all of Satan’s temptations and shows us that fasting is a powerful method of growing in self-control.
In other words, fasting (and by extension, self-control) leads to freedom.
But what happens if we buy the world’s false notion of freedom that we can basically do whatever we want? We end up slaves to our passions.
The Catechism explains it this way: “By deviating from the moral law, man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth (CCC 1740).”
At more than 800 pages, the Catechism of the Catholic Church isn’t exactly light reading. But it’s packed with wisdom and knowledge like this wonderful explanation about freedom. An effort to help break the Catechism into bite-sized chunks launched this month and The Soulful Catholic is proud to endorse this new way to lead each of us closer to Jesus. Real + True offers podcasts, videos and social media content that teaches the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith in an engaging way.
Edmund Mitchell, one of Real + True’s cofounders, had this to say about this project centered around making the Catechism more accessible, particularly to young people: “We hope our content unlocks the beauty and wisdom of the Catechism for modern women and men — and most of all, helps people discover its pulsating heart: Jesus Christ.”
Let us turn to this Heart that throbs with love for mankind and longs for us to walk in true freedom.