Our previous article explored how Christ invites us to free ourselves from slavery to sin. But what is this freedom for? Let us revisit a quote from the first article in our series.
True love wants to be free from something for something. A young man wants to be free from the parental yoke that he may love someone beside his parents and thus prolong his life. Freedom of love is, therefore, inseparable from service, from altruism and goodness.
— Ven. Sheen, The World’s First Love
Christ sets us free so that we may love other people as ourselves. If, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, “to love is to will the good of another,” then love is the ultimate purpose for the exercise of our free will. Sin is just the opposite. It is the abuse of free will, disregarding our neighbour’s good. Some examples are cheating, gossiping, and inflicting physical or verbal abuse. Love and sin lie on opposite ends of the plane on which we exercise our free will.
Freedom for love is an attribute that we inherit from our heavenly Father, who created us of His own free will. Our Lord Jesus freely chose the Cross so that we might live, and invites us to do the same. “Love one another; just as I have loved you (Jn 13:34).” Finally, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).”
Therefore, it is through the love of our neighbour that we are drawn into the very being of the Holy Trinity. Theologians describe an eternal dance of love — called perichoresis — between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; from which all creation is begotten in kenosis (outpouring). We partake in this action of perichoresis and kenosis when we lean into the Trinity and share in Their love for humanity.
To love God, whose good we cannot will strictly speaking — as He is purely actualised good itself — is to love what God loves, which, of course, is the neighbor’s good. So we come full circle.
— Tom Neal, To Will the Good of the Other
How, then, are we called to love in freedom?
Christ firstly invites us to be free from selfishness. Every deadly sin is a kind of selfishness that wounds our relationships. We counter this by cultivating the opposing virtue. This is what we call a “freedom for excellence”, which frees us to love our neighbour.
We must also be free of assumptions in order to love others as they need to be loved. Christ gave sight to the blind and made the dumb speak; He did not give sight to the dumb and make the blind speak! We will have to learn and re-learn how to love a person as he or she progresses through life, letting go of our familiar ways of loving. Be keen to observe your neighbour, and lean into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for He will show you how that neighbour needs and wants to be loved.
Loving freely doesn’t always look pretty. Our Lord loved us most freely while He hung upon the Cross. Sometimes love looks tiring and painful. Yet, that was how the Lord loved us.
Every time I take a step in the direction of generosity, I know I am moving from fear to love.
— Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son
Let us therefore go forth to love those we meet at home, in school, at work, and in our Church. In Christ, we have been freed from our self-absorption to love them with a generous heart.
Next week, we will look at how the pillars of Lent — prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — configure us to love in Christian freedom.
Written by Louis of VITA Scribes.