25 May 2015
On this Memorial Day, we Americans remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. We remember those who gave their lives in service to an idea—the idea of real freedom; freedom from tyranny and injustice, freedom from oppression and death of the human spirit. Through death and sacrifice, we can live in relative freedom.
But, while we are a free country, it’s fair to say that many of us and our friends are captives. We can so easily be captive to: addictions, food, social media, fear, pride, and many other things that can enslave us and make us less than free. The rich man who comes to Jesus is on the verge of freedom, but he’s too enslaved by his possessions to be really free.
But Sirach reminds us that “God provides a way back;” that he is hope for the hopeless and truth for those in doubt. Jesus tells the rich man to sell his things, give to the poor, and follow him. In other words, Jesus asks the rich man to die a certain death. He asks him to sacrifice what he sees as valuable for something he knows is even more precious.
Sacrifice is the “way back.” And that’s what the Lord asks of us. He asks us to sacrifice for the greater good—for the real freedom that comes with being a disciple of Jesus. The rich man asked, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom?” And we each ask, “What must I do to live in honest-to-goodness freedom?” To that, Jesus says: Give yourself, body, mind, and soul over to that idea—that idea of heavenly freedom. Let nothing stand in your way, not even your possessions.
We remember today those who gave their lives for the idea of freedom and life, embodied by the ideals of our country. And we, too, can give our lives for the idea of heavenly freedom and life, embodied by the ideals of the Catholic nation around the world: believers who sacrifice for and are dedicated to a greater good: the kingdom of heaven.
Real freedom comes through sacrifice. History and our Lord show us that. They go hand-in-hand: sacrifice and freedom, freedom and sacrifice.