And the Truth Will Set You Free.
During Lent we enter into the events of the public ministry of Christ. We are challenged through his words, his parables, and his actions to look at our own lives, to hear his voice speaking directly to our hearts, minds, and souls. We are called, in our meditations on the word, to recognize our own faults and failures, to see in Jesus the very fountain of our forgiveness and healing, and the source of the grace that will help us ʺgo and sin no more.ʺ (John 8:11)
When Jesus said to the people, ʺIf you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,ʺ they did not understand what he meant by ʺfree.ʺ They understood the term only in its political sense, that is, they conceived of slavery as being held in physical chains, held against one’s will in servitude to another. In our own time many think of ʺfreedomʺ as simply being able to do what one wants to do, without any imposed limitations from any other authority. The idea of freedom in our time has been distorted into something that is really nothing more than license.
Jesus’ meaning of freedom in much deeper than either of the examples above, and it is much more intimate. Jesus is telling us that we are all slaves—to our sins. This is a ʺtruthʺ worthy of the word. If we reflect honestly on our own particular weaknesses, our own selfish habits, our own ambitions and appetites, we will see that we have allowed them to enslave us, to control us. We bow to them in our weak moments like powerless servants. We may have even deluded ourselves into believing that we do these things because we are ʺfreeʺ to do them, and that no other authority, on earth or in heaven, has the right or the power to deny them to me. The one who is the enemy of God wants us to believe this. It is that fallen angel who, in defiance of God, desires to lead us away from true freedom and does so by making us define freedom in the shallow terms of politics, or ego. The great irony is that when we do this we are, in the name of freedom, putting on the chains of a slavery that can potentially fetter our very souls, forever.
Jesus challenges us every day, but in a more focused way during Lent. He challenges us to be honest with ourselves in his presence. He challenges us to look inward at our own lives, to see and to recognize our own faults and failings, those things that bind us and prevent us from being who we are really meant to be—disciples of Christ. The great lie, the terrible delusion of our own times that many believe, is that submitting to no one, to no authority, to no other being but one’s own will, is the very definition of freedom. Is it any surprise, then, that the world seems so chaotic? There is a madness in all of this. The madness of a Lie.
When we are able to see our own sinful chains for what they really are, we are then poised on the moment of truth and real freedom. For when we see that the ʺchainsʺ that bind us are our own sins, and turn to Jesus for his forgiveness, believing in his love and his truth, he will strike the chains of our sins from our bound and enslaved souls. In that moment we will truly be set free. In that freedom, then, we will be able to be his disciples in this world, willing to sacrifice, to suffer, and to endure any of the lies, insults, or false accusations the world might bring against us. And the believers will be able to say of us, ʺBlessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.ʺ (Luke 8:15)