He said to me,

“You Catholics are so bound up in rules. The Church controls your life. You are ordered to go to Church every Sunday. You are not free to get an abortion. You are ordered to give 10% of your income to the Church. You can’t even confess your sins to God, you have to tell a priest.”

I was so startled by his statement that I did not know how to answer. So, later I sat down and tried to figure out why I love this Catholic Church that “imposes” laws on us.

When I went to the Bible, I found Psalm 119:2 which says “Happy those who observe God’s decrees, who seek the Lord with all their heart.” Verse 18: “Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teaching.” Verse 24: “Your decrees are my delight.” How can laws, decrees and teachings be my delight and my happiness?

Well, there is a difference between freedom and license. Living my license means doing whatever I please, when I please, how I please, and why I please. License, then, ends up in utter selfishness.

When I get in my car, I am free to go almost anywhere if I follow the rules of the road. What if I decided that I am free to do what I want, so I ignore all those rules “imposed” on me by the Highway Patrol? I create a dangerous situation for myself and everyone else on the road. I am not free to do what I want, but I am free to drive with respect for other people. Rules are guidelines that help us be prosperous and safe along with other people in our community.

But freedom is different. The Ten Commandments, given to Moses, do not limit our freedom, but give us a direction in life. This freedom leads us from selfishness to love. True freedom allows us to care and give respect to God and our fellow sojourners. For we are all on a long journey to Eternal Life. The Commandments are a sure and true road map.

For me, freedom is the ability to do what is right and just and good for my neighbor as well as myself. Mary was free to accept the Incarnation. Jesus was free to offer Himself on the Cross for our Salvation. And we are free to worship. We are given the privilege of being part of a wonderful Church that guides our lives and offers us Jesus in the Eucharist every day.

So, when he accused me of being bound by Catholic rules, I should have smiled and told him how FREE I feel every Sunday when I attend Mass; how FREE I feel after Confession. I should have told him how, as a child loved by God, I thrive on returning God’s love by tithing to the Church.

1 Peter 2:16 says, “Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.” I will never use freedom as my excuse for selfishness. I will not use freedom as my excuse for sleeping in on Sunday. My freedom is to live God’s Commandments and to obey the laws of the Church with great JOY.

JoAn Holmes — SFA Theologians Guild Member