Ordinary 14th Sunday – FREE TO BE A SLAVE

Ordinary 14th Sunday

Is. 66: 10-14c                                       Gal. 6: 14-18                            Lk. 10: 1-12, 17-20

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

Theme:

To be a Christian is to be free from all sorts of slavery.

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Two youngsters were talking among themselves. One said, “My grandfather, till his last breath, fought for independence and freedom.” The other responded, “Oh! I never knew that your grandfather was a freedom fighter.” The first one said, “It is true that he was a freedom fighter. But he fought not for the freedom of the country, but for his own freedom and independence from my grandma. Alas! she never gave him it.”

All of us want to be free and we are even ready to put up a strong fight either to retain or to regain our independence. The reason is that freedom is closely associated with our happiness. We cannot expect a person, whose freedom is very much restricted, to be happy and feel joyful about life. The greatest gift that has been given to human being is the gift of freedom, and when a person is prevented from enjoying this gift, one suffers. The readings today talk about different types of slavery and correspondingly different types of freedom.

Freedom from Political Slavery:

In 587, the Babylonians managed to defeat Judah and completely ravage Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. For the Israelites, it was a double defeat. First, they were politically defeated and thus a life of slavery, which their forefathers had suffered in Egypt, once again visited upon them. They were carried to Babylonia to live a life of slavery. Secondly, their culture was also on its brink. The defeat in the hands of the Babylonians ensured that they were partially or completely cut off from Jerusalem, the city of their religious and cultural heritage. For hundreds of years, the Israelites had woven fabric of their cultural and religious life around the city of Jerusalem.

Having lost their cultural and political identity, the Israelites were living a life of oppression in Babylonia. They were reeling under the pain of oppression and the yoke of slavery. It was during this time that Isaiah communicated the message of Yahweh to the Israelites. God told them that the Israelites would free themselves from the yoke of oppression, and that their life would turn out to be a life of abundance and happiness. God told the Israelites that they would experience material abundance (“I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream”) and relational abundance (“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you”).

Freedom from Personal Slavery:

Though political freedom is good, as long as people are slaves of their own personal inclinations and selfish desires, political freedom is not much going to put their happiness on a higher pedestal. Knowing this Jesus promoted a life-style that hinges around personal freedom. Personal freedom involves a lifestyle that does not allow anything external to condition and control our inner state of disposition. Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning in which he narrates the ordeals of life in the concentration camps, writes, “Even in concentration camps, there were a few men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. It is a proof to say that everything can be taken from a person, except human freedom.” This is personal freedom.

Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to take the minimum number of things (“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals”) is closely related to a lifestyle of personal freedom. Quite often we think that having more money, more power, more possession enhances our life. It is just an appearance and far from the truth. The more we have, the more we are addicted to a comfortable way of life and the less we are free. A person with minimum of things can manage to survive anywhere, not the person who is used to a comfortable way of life. It is to say that when one has less, then one is more free. The more we have the less we are free.

So having more and being attached to it is nothing but a life of slavery. In today’s world, though there is no much of political slavery as such, there is a great amount of personal slavery. This is the reason why we witness plenty of long faces. Fr. Tony de Mello, a famous Jesuit priest, once said, “Formerly, what I wanted people to say of me in appreciation was, ‘he is a holy man’. Then I wanted them to say, ‘he is a loving man’. Now I want them to say, ‘he is a free man.’” To be free from personal bondage is not that easy.

A Slavery that is Worth-seeking:

Not all types of slavery are bad. In fact, there is a particular type of slavery that we need to seek assiduously. It is to be a slave of God. Being the slave of God is the beginning of true freedom. St. Paul, in the second reading, implies that he considered himself as the slave of Christ.  He says, “I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.” During the time of Paul, the slaves were branded with marks or letters in order that others may know that they belonged to a particular master.  Moreover he was happy to call himself as the slave of Christ. He calls himself as  doulos (slave) of God (Rom. 1: 1, Phil. 1: 1). Mary too affirmed that she was a slave (bondservant = slave) of God (Lk. 1: 38, 48).

Of course here, the notion of slavery has to be understood correctly. It is nothing to do with living a life of fear or subjugation, but making God’s will as ours. Paul, in his letter to Romans, invites us to progressively detach ourselves from all forms of personal slavery and to hand over ourselves as  slaves to God (Rom. 6: 15-23).

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