Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Reading Genesis 22:1-19
Gospel Matthew 9:1-8

“‘…but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’”

Today’s First Reading is one of the more famous and more moving passages of the Old Testament. The Church Fathers comment upon this passage at length and to great depth. But consider just one idea from among the many that this passage holds. Reflect on the notion of liberty.

What does it mean to be free? Usually in our western culture we think of freedom in external terms: that is, as being “free from” persons or forces outside us. Adolescence and early adulthood are largely—for good or ill—defined in terms of gaining freedom from one’s parents, and this is natural enough: child have to leave the nest at some point. Sometimes, unfortunately, children often exercise their liberty by “freeing” themselves from the moral and religious norms by which they were raised. Unfortunately, many older adults live their lives in a state of perpetual adolescence, never maturing to full adulthood because they cling to a falsely absolutized form of freedom as “freedom from” all others and all norms.

A deeper form of freedom can be termed the “freedom to”. This form of freedom is internal: an inner ability or capacity to achieve some goal that requires inner strength. This freedom is, to use another word, potential. We want our children to be free: that is, able to tap into all the potential that our human nature, and our Faith, offers us. Often a person knows that this strength is within oneself, but the strength is inaccessible because of inner conflicts, including moral vices. These conflicts prevent one from tapping into one’s inner strength, and being “free to” do what one is capable of.

Make an examination of conscience in the light of both forms of freedom. Use the patriarch Abraham as your guide. On the one hand, in your spiritual life, are you in any way pursuing “freedom from” God, which can only lead to sadness? Then, meditate on your inner need to pursue the “freedom to” of the spiritual life: the “freedom to” give yourself—sacrifice yourself—for the good of others.