I have been reflecting lately on what it means to be free from sin, and I have felt my attention drawn time and time again to the same idea. Due to the effects of sin in our life, we are not free to love as we should. To put it another way, slavery to sin keeps us from loving with the gratuity and unselfishness that God desires.
I have discovered this truth so often in my life, especially when I have done examinations of conscience using the Gospel. Often I find that phrases such as “love your enemy” and “be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect” highlight how dramatically I fall short of what God calls me to be. When I was younger, I often wrote these kinds of passages off as exaggerations that were impossible. I had a typical cynicism which took my experience and projected it onto others.
But then I met people who were living saints.
Now I am not canonizing anyone, nor am I holding anyone up on a pedestal. However, I have met people who really do practice the Gospel with a simplicity and a purity that is remarkable. These people made me think that not only was holiness possible, it was also normal. These people often have a kind of ease and gentleness about them that makes them fun to be around. I wanted to be in their company because it was generally enjoyable, and I imagine that being in their company is fairly close to what it would have been like to hang out with Jesus or the Apostles.
The key, I have discovered, is that they were free to love as God loves. I saw many of these folks struggle with difficulties, but they always seemed to radiate Christ’s love. I think the key is the freedom to love which is ultimately a freedom from sin and death. Christ liberates us from being confined to unruly emotions, passing moods, our insatiable need to have everything figured out, and other disorders within the human heart that keep us from realizing our full potential. Through the sacraments in which we receive God’s grace, our Lord sets us free from the tyranny of sin. What I have learned is that this freedom to love is within each of us. We must realize that we are called to love as God loves, and that we must cooperate with his grace in order that his love might purge us.