By: Melisa Carroll
Freedom is one of those words with a thousand definitions. In fact, even as I was trying to find the above quote from St. John Paul II, I came across hundreds of other quotes about what people think freedom means. Many of them were confused at best; the general feel was that freedom means you can do whatever you want. We as Christians, however, know that freedom is much different than doing whatever our whims desire, but it is found in the act of submitting ourselves to Christ and His plans for us.
Pentecost was this past weekend. This feast is always a good reminder to check in on my relationship with the Holy Spirit. How have I been listening to His prompts in my life? Have I been spending time in silence? Have I practiced any of the Gifts of the Spirit? As I was thinking about this blog post, the song “Freedom Reigns” floated into my mind. I’m giggling a little as I write this, because that was definitely the Holy Spirit. The line, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” kept repeating in my head and it got me thinking. What does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit provides freedom?
I work at an amazing Catholic school. I teach middle school Language Arts and I love my job. I’m surrounded by supportive families, inspiring staff, and students that I really, truly, care about. The Spirit of the Lord is definitely present in my school. However, when I first started teaching it didn’t quite sink in how the Lord wanted me to respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in my school. When I got my job, I was incredibly grateful that I was blessed to work at a place where I could share my faith openly with those around me. I prayed before classes and attended Mass, but that was about the extent of it. A few years ago, I went to a Diocesan teachers’ conference and one of the speakers talked about the many great privileges we teachers have to work at a Catholic school- specifically the privilege to pray with our students. For some reason, I hadn’t really thought about that before, but I remember asking God for opportunities that school year to pray with my students. God, of course, provided. Throughout that year I was able to pray with a few students for various needs and it was an incredibly powerful experience. In the years that have followed, those opportunities have steadily increased and just yesterday morning I was able to pray with some of my 7th grade girls.
So what does this have to do with freedom? Just as JPII’s quote states that “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought”, when I opened myself more to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, I was able to freely choose to do what I ought- pray with my students. I very easily could’ve chosen to keep to myself and avoid any moments of vulnerability (and there are times when I still do), but because of the presence of the Holy Spirit and my willingness to at least be open to His promptings, I was able to respond. The Holy Spirit doesn’t demand that you do anything; like Christ, His beckonings are gentle and persistent. We have the freedom to choose our response or whether to respond at all. The crux of the matter is that when you are trying to know, love, and trust God, you are open to what He asks of you because you realize that there is an abundance of grace to rely on in every moment. It’s much easier to act when you know that Someone is behind you, guiding you and providing you with exactly what you need.
So look around at the areas in your life where you experience the Spirit of the Lord. In what ways can you respond to the freedom that reigns there and the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Do you have a few moments to practice silence today and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart about your day? Listen for Him- is there someone you need to reach out to? Is there something you can surrender? Is there a virtue you want to practice? Remember that when you “give your all to Jesus, there is freedom”.
Song Suggestion: Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture