We Are Free to Do Good!

1 Peter 2:16-17

Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.

A reporter once asked the great theologian Karl Barth if he could offer some sort of synthesis of his many deep theological works for the common person. The reporter was anticipating a reply that would still need heavy editing in order to fit it into a “profile” size piece for a typical magazine.  But Barth replied with elegant simplicity: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Many people have the reporter’s problem when it comes to the work of Pope John Paul II.  His encyclicals, by their very depth, are intimidating and we assume that we ordinary people can neither read nor understand them.  But in reality, the Pope had very simple things to say.  He merely says them in a rich and well-explored way.  Today’s verse illustrates what I mean.  It says, in a single line, what Veritatis Splendor says in thousands of words.  Why does the Pope take so many words to say such a simple thing?  For the same reason that a physician takes a long time to perform extremely complex diagnoses and surgery.  The truth is simple.  But we have tangled ourselves in a massive complex of spiritual, social, moral, psychological and philosophical diseases in our efforts to ignore that truth and assert that freedom means freedom from goodness rather than freedom to do good.  The Pope, like a good doctor, has to diagnose and treat each aspect of the diseases of relativism, subjectivism, hedonism, nihlism and all the rest.  And that takes time.  But the bottom line remains the same: the purpose is spiritual, social, moral, psychological and philosophical health and the goal is to live our freedom in service to the God who is Truth.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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