I will walk at liberty, because I seek your precepts. 


Wait a minute! Aren’t “precepts” the opposite of “liberty”? Doesn’t freedom mean doing whatever you please whenever you please, in defiance of rules and restrictions? Not really.

Imagine you run into a stranger who hands you a flute. You seem to like music, he says. Take this flute. Go ahead, feel free to make music with it! Without instruction, you probably wouldn’t be able to do much with it. But if someone taught you the rules of how to play the flute—where to put your fingers, how to blow into it, how to read music—you would then have the chance to exercise that freedom, especially if you put in the time to practice. You would willingly restrict your “freedom to do whatever you want” with the flute so that you could actually learn to play it skillfully.

When St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free,” he is talking about that kind of freedom: the freedom to do something beautiful, the liberty to do what pleases the Lord (Galatians 5:1). God didn’t make us free so that we could ignore his commands; he knows they are what guide us to reach our full potential. They are what set us on the path of excellence.

Excellence at what? Love! Love of God and love of our neighbors.

Jesus delivers us from sin so that we are free to be like him. We are free to look out for someone else’s needs before our own. We are free to sacrifice on someone else’s behalf. The more this happens, the more like Jesus we become. It will look different for each one of us. A contemplative monk grows in loving in a different way than a young father does. A corporate executive conforms herself to Christ differently than someone living in a nursing home. But for each of us, true freedom comes as we receive the grace to live up to our potential.

Remember, loving isn’t accomplished in a single moment or gesture. It happens over time and with practice, just as every rehearsal enables the flute player to play even more beautifully.

“Father, thank you for setting me free to live in a way that pleases you!”

Galatians 5:1-6
Luke 11:37-41


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