TRUE FREEDOM: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. TERESA OF AVILLA, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO, CSsR, IBADAN
Stories are told of people who go to prison and do not want to be freed. I have never been to prison (only by the grace of God), but I know three reasons why a prisoner may not want to be released. One of the reason would be that the person has been given a big position in the prison and they apply the idea that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fish in a big pond. Therefore, they can prefer being leaders in a prison than being nobodies outside the prison. Another reason would be that the economic condition in which they found themselves before going into prison is so terrible that the condition in the prison is far better. Imagine someone who hardly had food to eat. In prison, he or she is sure of three meals a day. A third reason would be that they are sure they will be killed when they get out. Maybe they have betrayed someone, etc. So, they feel their safety is more guaranteed in the prison.
The conditions mentioned above are extraordinary situations. Ordinarily, nobody wants to go to jail, and anybody who goes to jail cannot wait to get out. Our first reading tells us that we are children of Abraham, not of the slave-girl, but of the free-born wife. Yet, we can decide to live like slaves. We are told to stand firm and not submit to the yoke of slavery.
HOW DO WE SUBMIT TO THE YOKE OF SLAVERY
We often think of freedom as the ability to do whatever we want. But true freedom is the ability to do whatever we should. Jesus condemns the people for seeking signs and wonders. This is one of the slavery many people have found themselves in. They will never believe God is at work untill they see some extraordinary signs. Jesus gave two signs. The two signs Jesus gave can help us understand the true meaning of freedom. Jonah preached reluctantly to the people of Nineveh and they repented. Repentance is not as easy as it sounds. The greatest mirracle that can happen in a person’s life is not when they are ‘opgesweep in die gees’, but when they actually repend of their sins. Many of us are Christians for years, but we find it hard to let go of certain sins. In relation to those sins, we are in prison. One reason we may not want to get out of that prison will be because we feel we are better off with the sin that without it. Maybe the sin makes us feel more in control. Maybe we are afraid we will die or be killed if we repend. No matter what, it is one fear or another that prevent us from seeking true freedom.
Instead of looking for dramatic mirracles where a crippled person will stand up and move, or where a blind person will see, why dont we seek the mirracle within ourselves. When you can actually stop committing that mortal or venial sin, it can be recorded as one of the greatest mirracles of all times. When you find yourself living without something you previously thought you cannot live without, then a great mirracle has taken place and you have attained true freedom.
JESUS CAN DO IT
This mirracle, like all mirracles cannot take place without Jesus. If you try by your power, you will fail. St. Teresa of Avilla became an agent of renewal for the Carmelites. Sometimes we just want to remain with what we are used to, because we feel safe there. But St. Teresa of Jesus took the bold step to bring the whole Carmelite order to repentance as it were. He challenged many things that were not going right. However, as we read in the Office of Readings today, she said we can only accomplish great things quickly and without effort when we love. God has loved us, and our sins offend that love. We may claim to love Him, but untill the mirracle of repentance takes place in our lives, we cannot truly claim this love and we will not truly be free.
There is a certain sense of freedom that comes with going for confession. This is the sacrament that can help us to truly live the life of freedom won for us by Christ. Jesus gives the example of the Queen of the South all the way to hear the wisdom of solomon. How far can we go to attain this freedom. No road is too far if it leads eventually to heaven. I met an old colleague recently who said to me ‘If it matters to you, you will make a way; if it doesnt matter to you, you will make an excuse.’