On Saturday we celebrate the United States of America and the wonderful freedoms that inhere in being a citizen of this great country. But what, really, is freedom? It is a complicated matter, a subject for much political and theological speculation. Catholic theology advocates a freedom for more than a freedom from, but a freedom from is often the dominant way Americans understand freedom, which is not surprising given the language of the Bill of Rights. The danger, however, is that freedom becomes entirely conceived as an absence of all restraint and authority, as the ability to do whatever one wants. But this is not freedom. Rather, it promotes anarachy and captivity.
Anticipating the Fourth of July, here is a passage from John Paul II on the theological dimensions of authentic freedom:
Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly. It is an essential part of that creaturely image which is the basis of the dignity of the person. Within that freedom there is an echo of the primordial vocation whereby the Creator calls man to the true Good, and even more, through Christ's Revelation, to become his friend and to share his own divine life. It is at once inalienable self-possession and openness to all that exists, in passing beyond self to knowledge and love of the other.