Freedom is not just what we are freed from, but also what we are freed for. We are set free from the bondage of sin for a life of superabundance, to live as sons of the Father and heirs to his kingdom. We are set free to become fully human, fully ourselves and fully alive in all that God has created us to be. Ultimately, we are set free to give ourselves away, just as Christ did on the Cross. To be fully alive is to be fully given!
To understand how to express our freedom, we will turn to Christ who was so free that he could even freely choose to lay down his life for us. Our three-fold expression of freedom will consist of abiding presence, joyful service and loving sacrifice, contemplating each of these in more detail over the next three days.
My brother and I are best friends. We have always enjoyed spending time together, conversing about a variety of topics ranging from deep theological truths to debates over the best current NBA superstar. I still remember one of those life conversations a few years back regarding his work/life balance.
After racing past his wife and kids again to dash straight into his office to continue the work of the day, his wife sat him down. In essence, she told him that if you are going be on a work call just don’t come home until you are finished. It sends a message to the children that work is more important than they are. Yikes! As you might expect, that hit him square between the eyes and that’s when he called to chat. We talked for a while and formulated a simple resolution – before you get out of the car each day, decide what kind of husband and father you are going to be before you walk through that door. This was one of the original seeds that God planted in my heart that eventually led to writing and producing “The Door - The Power of Presence”.
The Door is a short film that enters into a daily decision point for men. It shows the dynamic impact a father can make to his entire family with a simple choice. The video reminds men of their incredible vocations as husbands and fathers called to bring joy into their homes.
Good men, who sacrifice and work so hard to provide for their families, are faced with what has been called “the daily drama of fatherhood.” These are good men who love God and their families with all their heart. On one hand, men are called to be providers; on the other hand, a man’s loving presence and relationships with his wife and children are irreplaceable. Between these two great callings exists a daily tension that so many modern men face.
At the depths of our identity as men, we are both sons and fathers. Saint John Paul II proclaimed that men are called to reveal and relive on earth the very fatherhood of God. Now that is some pretty deep stuff. I really believe the video touches this depth, this sacred place within the heart of each man, whether he knows it or not. Like God the Father, our love for our children is unconditional. We would give them anything, right!? Sometimes we just need to be reminded that they need our time; they need our friendship. A good friend sent me a text message recently with the simplest of truths, “Children spell love…T-I-M-E.”
Diving even deeper, if men are called to reflect the very fatherhood of God then we ought to contemplate the mystery of God. While every other religion on earth is man seeking God, with Christianity we know it to be the exact opposite. Our God comes seeking after us! He passionately pursues us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In the Incarnation, the Lord leaves his world behind, foregoing his throne in the heavens to make a true descent. He comes down to our level, but doesn't stop there, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Our God meets us wherever we are – saint or sinner. He enters into our sorrow and cares deeply for our souls, as intimate as he is infinite. “And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). And we all know how the story ends, freely laying down his life for us at the Cross, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again...” (John 10:18).
So here is the million-dollar question: Why? Why does God go to such extremes? My proposal to you is simply this: To give us his abiding presence. The Father has an infinite desire to be with his children. The gift of Creation, the gift of the Incarnation and the gift of Heaven itself are all gifts of his presence. In his infinite goodness, he even offers his presence within us through the gifts of Baptism, the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit. This is the all-consuming desire of the Father!
God's abiding presence is the most powerful force in the world.
Brothers and sisters, your abiding presence in your home, if lived well, has the potential to bring with it the same power because as Saint John Paul II so eloquently proclaimed, "The future of the world and of the church passes through the family" (Familiaris Consortio, 75). Imagine millions of fathers and mothers spending more time with their children, bringing the love, peace and joy of the Lord into their homes. It’s this love that literally brings life into the world and sustains our existence. Our freedom is meant to be used to love...freely. It’s really this simple, God wants your family to experience more joy. More smiles, more laughter and a life filled with superabundant joy.
As we walk through the door each day we have a definitive decision point. In literally the first ten seconds, what kind of person are we going to be? Pope Francis has asked parents on multiple occasions to “waste time with their children.” Do you waste time with your children? Do you waste time with your spouse? Or...do you waste time on technology, vain pursuits or the things of this world that are passing away?
In our freedom, we must make a daily descent into the lives of our loved ones. Like God, we must leave our world of work, personal pursuits and agendas joyfully and willingly and enter into the lives of others. We are called to an intimacy with them; we are called into a communion of persons.
How you spend your time is how you spend yourself. Resolve to bring joy to others, starting first and foremost in your own home. This is one decision I promise you will never regret.