“Obedience to God’s commandments, far from alienating us from our humanity, is the pathway to genuine liberation and the source of true happiness.” — John Paul II
I have been reading John Paul II’s address to the bishops of Region X in June, 1998. He made the statement quoted above in his opening remarks. In an age when so many are interiorly enslaved by sin, passions and misguided energies, his statement and teaching is so on target.
In the address, John Paul II spoke of a crisis of conscience and a crisis of freedom. The former arises from the attempt nowadays of superseding genuine conscience with a counterfeiting “right to self-will” in which the mere assertion of one’s right to choose is the core “freedom.” John Paul II counters this with the recognition that true freedom is the right to do what one ought to do and to freely adhere to what is good and true. His argument is rooted in Christian anthropology. The Christian understanding of the human person and human nature is rooted in Jesus. Jesus was free to choose the will of the Father to whom he was oriented for our sake. No one or no thing was to deter him from choosing the mission for which he was sent into this world. His choice was real; and he was free. His freedom, though, resided not so much in his option to “save himself” from the cross, but in his complete freedom to choose to endure it despite the utter horror it was to bring in mind and body.
Human dignity consists then not only in the capacity and freedom to choose, but to do so wisely and in accord with the good to which we are called, as we see in Jesus. The many martyrs are other examples for us.
The Church never arbitrarily imposes norms of morality. Rather, she informs us to the good and the truth and calls us to act freely with the truth. She articulates the divine law and reminds us of human nature. She calls us to fidelity.
Men and women of today know they are to live morally upright lives. They often struggle to explain exactly what this implies. This uncertainty is fed by a skepticism in our culture of the very existence of moral truth. Just look how so many of us try to rationalize our personal habits and political views when they stand in opposition to that which God and our human nature have informed us.
Let us follow the example of Jesus, our model and guide. He was truly free, with a freedom born in the truth of who he was in obedience to the will of the Father.
It is only in him, and in following his example, that we will find real happiness.