Following God’s law entails sacrifice, but God always rewards us.
Following God’s law entails sacrifice, but God always rewards us.

Imagine a society where the government strips away every seemingly unnecessary law and regulation. No more working papers, building permits, excessive taxes and overpowering central government. Put power into the hands of each autonomous individual with no “big brother” interference. This would enable the people to self-select themselves for success. But would the people of this society be free?

You may have heard of the “Free Britney” movement. It involves Britney Spears, world-renowned singer and entertainer. After a breakdown in 2009, Spears was placed under a conservatorship controlled by her father. So Spears, a woman with fame and money, one of the most popular singers of recent decades, was not free to make her own decisions. Yet, even after her father recently filed to end the conservatorship, will Spears find freedom?

Whatever your age, I’m sure you vividly recall that feeling on the last day of school before summer vacation. As the final bell rings, you dash out the door, exclaiming, “I’m free!” However, is this freedom?

In these instances, freedom is a “freedom from:” laws, control and homework. Yet, according to Catholic teaching, freedom is quite the opposite. It is “freedom for:” serving and loving God and one another. Paradoxically, it is exactly in submitting ourselves to God’s law that we are made most free.

This is because there is a greater control than laws. It is the interior servitude to sin and to the enemy. Ask anyone who has struggled with an addiction. The first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is saying: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” In other words, they weren’t free. Sin makes us a slave to our passions, no longer free to walk in the light of love and truth.

Yet, when we repent and turn back to God through the sacrament of Confession, God frees us.  Christ’s death on the cross is the greatest emancipation in history!

It is the law — God’s law — that sets us free. Consider the athlete. He gains his greatest glory by operating within the rules of the game. If he did whatever he wanted to do on the field, breaking the rules in the process, he would be ejected from the game. Similarly, we shine most when operating within the rules God gave us in this game of life.  

Following God’s law entails sacrifice, but God always rewards us. It means taking an hour on your Sunday morning to go to Mass, when you could have gone shopping or lounged in your pajamas. Yet, when we honor the Sabbath, God gives us something even better: the greatest treasure here on earth, the Eucharist.  

In this way, we can say that someone like Father Walter Ciszek, SJ, imprisoned for 23 years in Russian internment camps, was, in the truest sense “free” because he was doing the Will of God. He writes in “With God in Russia:” “I learned there the lesson which would keep me going in the years to come: religion, prayer and love of God do not change reality, but they give it a new meaning … I grew firmer in my conviction that whatever happened in my life was nothing else than a reflection of God’s will for me. And He would protect me.”

My husband and I recently published a novel entitled, “In the Shadows of Freedom.” In it, we created a society like that described at the beginning of this article. The ruling political party is stripping away all laws and regulations to make the people free. Yet, in this dystopian America, where does making oneself the final arbiter of truth lead you? The protagonist struggles for freedom, a struggle that is both interior as well as supernatural. It is the same battle that each of us faces on a daily basis.

The greatest and most valuable freedom is the interior freedom we experience when following God. Frank Sinatra may have sung, “I did it my way,” but for us as Catholics, we must sing, “I did it God’s way.” It’s the only way to freedom. Anything else is just a shadow of true freedom. 

Spellman and her family are parishioners at St. Mary’s Church in Ballston Spa. To learn more about the novel she co-wrote with her husband, Chris, visit their website at spellmanbooks.com.