It is interesting to note that in today’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus is speaking to those who “believed in him” (Jn 8:31). But the more he talks to them the further from his followers they seem to be! Jesus states: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” His listeners balk at the word “free” asserting that because they are ancestors of Abraham they have never been enslaved by anybody. In the United States of America, we also value our freedom. I believe that many of us would react very much in the same way. We may have different ways of expressing why we feel that we are free, but we would certainly assert that we are not enslaved.
Jesus’ words ring just as true for us, as they did for those he spoke to in today’s Gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” Jesus is shedding light on the truth that many of us do not see, our enslavement to sin. This is the truth that we need to acknowledge if we want to be truly free. What many of us claim to be freedom is doing whatever we want to do, when we want to do it. The sadness is that we cannot even hear the clanking of the chains or feel the weight of the shackles chaffing at our skin as we raise and shake our fists while acclaiming our freedom.
The response to Jesus saying that one “who commits sin is a slave of sin” is not to hide, deny, attack or flee from this statement. Worse would be to read into the fact that since Jesus is referring to one who commits sin, he must not be talking about me. The response to Jesus is to embrace the truth he is placing before us, to allow the light that he is shining to expose the darkness in our heart where sin speaks and we say yes. To acknowledge where in our thoughts, words, and actions we do not put God first.
Our response to Jesus ought to be to follow the lead of Pope Francis who when he was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” answered, “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.” We are all sinners because we all in some form or fashion place idols before God in so many ways and we are enslaved by that sin, such that it chokes and threatens to undo us. Sin is like a Chinese finger trap. The more we pull to escape, the tighter the grasp of the trap, yet when we push our fingers together and they touch we escape.
We come to be free from our sin by acknowledging that we are sinners and that we need the mercy of Jesus, that we need Jesus in our life to free us from our slavery to sin. We also need to realize that Jesus accepts us as sinners, as we are. We do not have to be perfect or have our house in order for him to come to be present with us, our prayers do not have to be just so, we just need to invite him in and accept the free gift of his love and mercy. We need to continue to walk with him until we can believe his message to us: “So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.”
Link for interview with Pope Francis from America Magazine, September 30, 2013:
Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., begins the interview with the questions of who is Jorge Mario Bergolio? The whole interview is well worth the time to read!
Photo: Crucifix in the sanctuary of the cathedral, St Ignatius of Loyola, PBG, FL
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, March 21, 2018: