Political freedom cannot long last if our souls remain in captivity. As we celebrate American independence and the extraordinary people and events giving rise to our political and economic freedom, my thoughts turn to the subject of spiritual freedom. In the words of St. Paul, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another" (Gal 5: 13).
On this subject of spiritual freedom, I like to return to one of my favorite encyclicals of St. John Paul II. In Redemptor Hominis, he wrote:
Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free". These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world. Today also, even after two thousand years, we see Christ as the one who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience. What a stupendous confirmation of this has been given and is still being given by those who, thanks to Christ and in Christ, have reached true freedom and have manifested it even in situations of external constraint!
Many throughout the world are searching, even fighting, for various kinds of freedom. My thoughts today go to the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists; to the people of Iraq; and to the countless more throughout the world who are wondering whether they will ever be liberated from violence, fear, and oppression.
Still others, living in political tranquility, suffer from an unfreedom of the spirit -- depression, anxiety, and other conditions which leave people emotionally paralyzed, unable to feel the freshness of a new day.
To these people and more, I join my prayers with those of others, hoping that today becomes one step forward toward independence, toward freedom, and toward peace. I pray especially for the grace of Christ the liberator, of whom it was said: "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them."