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On the Freedom of Christ

"A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love"


VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, "as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

With the expression "resolutely" we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he "filled" with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an "empty" possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who "resolutely" gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: "You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love" (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: "If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!" He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. "The truth will set you free." Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. Today's Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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