The Fourth of July and St. Paul

The Fourth of July is a most appropriate time to recall a ’discussion’ St. Paul had in his First Letter to the Corinthians. There, in a dialogue form, he hears someone(s) saying to him, "Everything is lawful to me". Paul’s responds, "But I do not want anything to dominate me". He is thinking that one must distinguish why I choose what I do, that I know when what might issue from my will is not really a free choice. There are many situations, e.g., alcholism, wherein a person will say, "I am free to have one drink; it won’t hurt me." We know that story, and many more - they make us careful that a so-called free act is not actually an act by something that dominates me so that in fact I am not free. Paul continues the dialogue: "Everything is lawful to me", only to counter, "Not everything is for my good". We are blessed with freedom, but with a freedom to choose what is truly good for us. Freedom is the tool of the intelligent being, born to choose the good, not be driven to it like animals. The Fourth of July makes us grateful again for freedom. May we reach freedom’s goal, to choose what we learn to be for our good. It is hardly the glory of freedom, the glory of what we have so often fought to protect, when I ’choose’ what actually dominates me and stunts freedom, when I choose freely what is not my real good. John Kilgallen, SJ

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