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The Feast of Saint James the Great
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Why did God give us freedom?


Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/26/20

God gave us freedom so that we may freely choose him and do what is true, good and beautiful.

Sometimes when we look at the world around us, it is tempting to question why God gave us freedom in the first place. From our point of view, it might seem better if everyone simply did the same thing and didn’t have to make difficult choices.

However, God gave us freedom for a reason, and it is a gift we need to understand in order to use it properly.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (CCC 1731).

Furthermore, we all possess “the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning” (CCC 1732).

At the same time, while we have the ability to choose good or evil, we exercise our freedom the most when we choose what is good.

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.” (CCC 1733)

St. John Paul II echoed these words during a homily in the United States of America in 1995.

Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

This is exactly what the Catechism says as well. “The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything” (CCC 1747).

Freedom is best expressed in being virtuous and choosing God. The more we sin and move away from God, the more we become slaves of sin.

This is what God was trying to illustrate in the Garden of Eden. He gave Adam and Eve the freedom to choose the path of life. However, they abused that freedom and made a choice that had eternal consequences.

To conclude this short meditation on freedom, ponder the words of St. John Paul II, which he spoke before being elected pope in a visit to America in 1976. He echoes these points and challenges us all to use our freedom wisely, recognizing that God gave it to us for our eternal benefit.

Freedom has been given to man by his Creator in order to be used, and to be used well … freedom has been given to him by his Creator not in order to commit what is evil (cf. Gal 5:13), but to do good. God also bestowed upon man understanding and conscience to show him what is good and what ought to be done, what is wrong and what ought to be avoided. God’s commandments help our understanding and our conscience on their way. The greatest commandment — that of love — leads the way to the fullest use of liberty … Freedom is therefore offered to man and given to him as a task. He must not only possess it, but also conquer it.


Read more:
John Paul II’s powerful address to police officers


Read more:
A prayer for all political leaders

CatechismSpiritual Life
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