“Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”
Surprised, they said, “But we’re descendants of Abraham. We’ve never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, “The truth will set you free?”
Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will.The Son,though, sets you free. You are free through and through.”
In many ways, we can be actual slaves and yet free at the same time. Although my body may be constrained, my spirit can be free. This is the result of choices that we make throughout our lives. Many of us becomes slaves to a corporate mentality that according to our Supreme Court is a person. The Corporation becomes a slave holder, rewarding a chosen few and using all for it’s own purpose which is profit. All corporations can use you up and spit you out at will. In the meantime, we choose to become slaves to the “stuff” that other corporations convince us that we cannot live without. Large mortgages, car payments, college tuition, vacations, insurance, – keeping up appearances and gaining public approval based on what things that I have. We claim to own our homes, but actually they own us. Ongoing maintenance and upkeep, taxes, new furnishings, and opportunities to move on up demand time and energy. Not just one car, but two or three, or more in some cases add to the burden that we accept. We tie ourselves down to these obligations and in turn, accept slavery; and support of the corporate world that demands obedience, loyalty and deference.
Many years ago, a great Country Singer, Tennessee Ernie Ford, sang, “Saint Peter don’t you call me, cause I can’t go: I owe my soul to the Country Store.” We sell our souls to the Country Store and run as fast as we can to meet our chosen obligations. We look for approval of our peers, our families. We like all others to think well of us – to recognize that we are successful. We strive for advancement, and in the process of advancement, buy bigger houses, cars, and other assorted toys. We become addicted to stuff – to titles, and bigger and better things that wear out in time. Sadly, and all too often, along the way, human relationships are wounded and at times destroyed. We like to be seen with the right people in the right places, and therefore leave behind friends and family who never quite fit in.
To choose to be a slave, is to choose to become an addict. We often see others as addicted to alcohol, heroin, or other drugs of their choice. Many times they choose these addictions because they cannot keep up and see themselves as failures. There is no way for them to successfully compete – they just quit. Anger and depression are symptoms of defeat – they are worn out trying to compete.
The Scripture stories of Cain and Abel; Joseph and his Brothers, are just some examples of the problem of comparison and competition. Comparisons always lead to jealousy – to envy that is so destructive of human relationships. We are unable to let go – to simply see ourselves and unique and gifted in our own way and as a reflection of a loving God for all of creation. Our need for approval, especially when unrequited, drives us and we are no longer free; free to become who we are called to become. We become instead a slave to the approval of others – to applause and therefore attract others of like mind. Others crave approval as well and as we climb the ladder of success others crave our approval and this becomes a mutual admiration society; a world where everyone feeds on everyone else. We become a people that demands mutual admiration, and where the “I” is the center instead of the community. In our addictions, we demand to be fed at all times, and forget the Gospel mandate to feed others – to be servant.
The Gospel teaches us that to be free, we need to deliberately and consciously choose to be free and to let go of all things that encumber that freedom. We watch in amazement that other peoples, living in squalor, can actually be happy and content. Happiness is a choice that we make. We choose to become adults or to remain children. We choose to love and be loved or to be worshiped as a false god or to worship other false gods that offer themselves along our journey. We are called by the teachings of the Gospel to proclaim God’s love for all creation, that is constantly becoming new, and to recognize that we are part of that ongoing miracle. We are made in God’s image, male and female, and called to recognize that all of creation is connected – and not to compare one galaxy, one star or one planet with another – they are part and parcel of creation opening up to life. We need one another, not to dominate or be dominated, but to walk together – to open our minds and souls and to become free.