Freedom is acquired in the gift of self to God and one’s brethren

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

Christ reveals, first and foremost, that the frank and open acceptance of truth is the condition for authentic freedom: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).139 This is truth which sets one free in the face of worldly power and which gives the strength to endure martyrdom. So it was with Jesus before Pilate: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37). The true worshippers of God must thus worship him “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23): in this worship they become free. Worship of God and a relationship with truth are revealed in Jesus Christ as the deepest foundation of freedom.

Furthermore, Jesus reveals by his whole life, and not only by his words, that freedom is acquired in love, that is, in the gift of self. The one who says: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13), freely goes out to meet his Passion (cf. Mt 26:46), and in obedience to the Father gives his life on the Cross for all men (cf. Phil 2:6-11). Contemplation of Jesus Crucified is thus the highroad which the Church must tread every day if she wishes to understand the full meaning of freedom: the gift of self in service to God and one’s brethren. Communion with the Crucified and Risen Lord is the never-ending source from which the Church draws unceasingly in order to live in freedom, to give of herself and to serve. Commenting on the verse in Psalm 100 “Serve the Lord with gladness”, Saint Augustine says: “In the house of the Lord, slavery is free. It is free because it serves not out of necessity, but out of charity . . . Charity should make you a servant, just as truth has made you free . . . you are at once both a servant and free: a servant, because you have become such; free, because you are loved by God your Creator; indeed, you have also been enabled to love your Creator . . . You are a servant of the Lord and you are a freedman of the Lord. Do not go looking for a liberation which will lead you far from the house of your liberator!”.140

The Church, and each of her members, is thus called to share in the munus regale of the Crucified Christ (cf. Jn 12:32), to share in the grace and in the responsibility of the Son of man who came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).141

Jesus, then, is the living, personal summation of perfect freedom in total obedience to the will of God. His crucified flesh fully reveals the unbreakable bond between freedom and truth, just as his Resurrection from the dead is the supreme exaltation of the fruitfulness and saving power of a freedom lived out in truth.

139 Cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (March 4, 1979), 12: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 71 (1979), 280-281.
140 Enarratio in Psalmum XCIX, 7: Corpus Christianorum, Latin series 39, 1397.
141 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 36; cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (March 4, 1979), 21: AAS 71 (1979), 316-317.

Veritatis Splendor 87

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