Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “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.” (John 8:31-32)
Happy Independence Day! As Christians, every day we can celebrate true freedom: Jesus came to set us free from sin. He forgives us and draws us into a loving relationship with God the Father. When we immerse ourselves in the word of God and remain rooted in His word – we experience the truth that sets us free.
There are many ways to encounter the lifesaving message of Jesus in the bible. I generally advise starting with the Gospels. If you have already prayerfully read the gospels, I would suggest you move to Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans.
In recent weeks, our second reading on Sundays has been drawn from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this letter, Saint Paul unfolds some key elements of the “kerygma” – the core message of the Gospel.
As a young adult, I read the letter to the Romans from beginning to end. I had heard parts of the letter in Masses and had even read it in its entirety once as part of a complete reading of the New Testament. Even though I had this prior familiarity with the text, as a young adult, one summer I prayerfully re-read the entire letter. That summer changed my life. I gained new insights into what the death and resurrection of Jesus meant – and how I should respond.
I came away with greater clarity about Jesus’ saving action. God gave us a perfect world. The sin of Adam in the garden was a rejection of that gift. We sinned and wanted to do things our own way, ignoring God’s plan. God kept calling us into a relationship with him and to live according to his will. We still failed to follow His law, but in His love for us – God sent his Son Jesus. With faith in Jesus (who perfectly lived out the law), God restored what was lost in the garden. Jesus loves us so much. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus poured out God’s grace and mercy upon us. We are still called to follow God’s plan, but should we sin – we can always turn to the mercy of Jesus for forgiveness.
The New American Bible, Revised Edition, produced by the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2011, includes an introduction to the St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. The following is an excerpt from that introduction, with a summary of the importance and key themes of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Of all the letters of Paul, that to the Christians at Rome has long held pride of place. It is the longest and most systematic unfolding of the apostle’s thought, expounding the gospel of God’s righteousness that saves all who believe (Rom 1:16–17)… Romans presents a plan of salvation stretching from Adam through Abraham and Moses to Christ (Rom 4; 5) … Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a powerful exposition of the doctrine of the supremacy of Christ and of faith in Christ as the source of salvation. It is an implicit plea to the Christians at Rome, and to all Christians, to hold fast to that faith. They are to resist any pressure put on them to accept a doctrine of salvation through works of the law (see note on Rom 10:4). At the same time they are not to exaggerate Christian freedom as an abdication of responsibility for others (Rom 12:1–2) or as a repudiation of God’s law and will (see notes on Rom 3:9–26; 3:31; 7:7–12, 13–25).
True freedom is found in doing what we ought to do, not just doing what we might want to do in a passing moment. God calls us to a higher purpose – following his plan for our lives. This summer, I encourage you to open your bible and prayerfully meditate on the word of God, especially Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. Immerse yourself in His Word so you may encounter the Truth that will set you free. Happy Independence Day!
Jesus, I Trust in You!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary