Commentary

Independence

In the movie "Braveheart", William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, rides down to meet the men of Scotland to give them hope and courage to face the oppressive power of the English Crown. Imagine, standing in a battlefield, facing an army greater then yours, as you hear the words of William Wallace ring within your head and heart. As William looks to you and shouts, "Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace and I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are." He then looks to the commanders of the army and faces his countrymen questioning them, "What will you do without freedom -- Will you FIGHT?" The crowd yells in disagreement, "No!" A man next to you says with a stern voice "Against that? No! We will run, and we will live..."

William then looks to the man saying, "Fight - and you will die. Run - and you'll live... At least a while." He then captures your attention and the attention of the men who fear death under the English sword, as he says to them, "And dying in your beds many years from now. Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance, JUST ONE CHANCE! To come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our FREEDOM!"

These are the words that gave courage to an army out-numbered by three to one, as they defeated the English. With such words, imagine our Lord calling us through these same words; would it move men, women, and youth to fight the tyranny of sin and win back their freedom in Christ?

To respond to Christ we need to first abandon our sinful life and surrender our very being to Jesus. That means going from an ‘independence’ from sin to a ‘dependence’ on Grace. We must first understand the meaning of ‘independence’.

Man mistakenly believes that independence is the freedom from any control of persons, rule, ideas, or things that are outside of oneself. It is the very thing that every man and woman has, but seems to be "out of focus" due to the fall of Adam and Eve. We tend to think today that independence is not only of outside controls, but of God Himself. Men and women of the world think in society that God does not control "me", nor does He dictate to "me" how "I” am supposed to live in this world. Whether it be philosophies, religions made by man, or even a ruler with great power who forces men and women to believe that God either is a dictator like the evil men in history or is non-existent God, as everything outside the independent man or woman, is not in control. We paint God "evil" for not allowing us to be free, or we forcefully make Him disappear. Doing this causes destruction of self. The psalmist describes in the Sacred Scripture about departing or separating ourselves from God which would lead us to destruction. Imagine the words the psalmist writes, "When you hide your face, they become afraid; you take away their breath and they return to dust” (Ps 104:29). Could man and woman honestly say they could live another day without God? The Christian knows very well that he is dependent on God who gives him or her life and freedom. But this freedom comes with responsibility. This responsibility stems from the commands Jesus had taught us, "Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).

We shall speak of three things which hurt the Christian from achieving and fulfilling his or her vocation to conquer, with the power of Christ, the culture of death which destroys our hope, courage, and sin which separates us from God. As Christians we can fall short in our responsibility through fear, doubt and most especially sin. These three things have been the death of many vocations, and genuine Christian living. When we speak of fear, we do not mean fear of the Lord, rather we speak of fear as a feeling that effects the soul and body in facing great challenges, like that of the Scottish men in "Braveheart." Fear must be conquered by the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude (CCC 1808), which grants the person courage to face over-powering persons, ideas, and things. It strengthens the person to resist temptation and obstacles that stand in the way of man's pursuit to good. Doubt is the giant tyrant of human freedom. It is the bully that gives lies to those who seek to change things for the good. It is like a scorpion on ones shoulder, telling the believer that "all things are hopeless -- all things shall fall -- there is no good in this world or in the next, only death." When removing the scorpion, the believer is threatened by its poisonous tail. What is needed for the Christian in this predicament is the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence, which gives the believer confidence to overcome doubts "about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid (CCC 1806)." It also links it to the Theological Virtue of Hope, which gives us strength to place our trust in the promises of Jesus Christ (CCC 1817). The Doubting Giant or the Scorpion would be crushed under the weight of Hope, which is the very thing a Christian shines forth through the culture of death. Lastly, Sin as the poison of the soul, is the very absence of good. It is our acts against the commands of God that breaks or tears us from the Love and Mercy of God. It is the very thing that feeds the culture of death, as it poisons more souls and takes more lands, covering the earth like a dark cloud. Only Grace can penetrate this dark cloud, because it is God's self-communication of Himself to us. Grace is what frees the Christian soul from the torment of darkness and brings it to the Light of Happiness. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), it states, "It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues." Keep this in mind dear Christian, and let it burn in your heart, "Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil” (CCC 1811). This is for all Christians in the service of the youth, young adults, pro-life, apologetics, and any apostolic work in the service of the Church. This will give us back the strength to carry on the fight!

In conclusion, we must enter into the mysteries of Christ present in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and also in the Monstrance, that is the Eucharist! He becomes our Fortitude, our Hope, and our Grace. It is the one thing, the only thing that pulls us from sin and brings us to depend on God. Fear then is conquered by Fortitude, Hope pierces doubt at the heart, and sin is triumphed over by Grace. We then can continue to build a civilization of love being the "Roman Catholic Church", founded and guided by Christ. Hence, the day we celebrate our independence from sin and death, will be when we enter life everlasting, as promised by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Praise Him now and forever!

Juan "Johnny" Rodriguez

 

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