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A Free Heart

Me, a slave? No!

I live in a country that promotes freedom as one of the great rights of its citizens. Me, a slave? No!

I have the freedom to choose what I will wear each morning and decide what I want to do every day. Me, a slave? Of course not. I come and go as I please. Me, a slave? I am not a slave; I do whatever I want, because it is my right.

Generations have fought for the ideal of freedom in the United States. It promoted the eradication of slavery and civil rights inequality that for many generations plagued our African American brothers, but what about the possibility of us being slaves right now of our dwindling spirituality?

Fr. Art Gramaje, CMF

Pope Francis addressed Paraguay’s youth in his first visit to Latin America, and he defined freedom as a gift from God, but he made it clear that we must learn how to receive this gift, and in order to receive it we must have a free heart. What enslaves our hearts? Pope Francis is not talking about physical slavery. Forget about slavery that involves chains and shackles. He is talking about emotional and spiritual slavery. Without realizing it, many of us have fallen into a dangerous and invisible form of slavery that binds our hearts and makes us slaves of exploitation, lack of means to make a living, drug addiction, sadness… but then, what does it mean to have a free heart? According to Pope Francis, a free heart is one that is able to decide what it thinks and what it feels and is able to act upon what it thinks and feels; that is a free heart.

Do I have a free heart? Do you want to know if you have one? Let’s reflect on the following:

Have you become a slave to comfort? When your mother asks you to go to the store, do you take the car? Would you rather stay home than visit your grandparents because they don’t have Wi-Fi? Do you skip youth group because there is no air conditioning and you hate the heat?

Today’s world teaches us to live without making sacrifices. Everything is within reach, and we get what we want, when we want it. Patience seems to be a fool’s virtue. The media has sold us the crazy idea that everything needs to be express, easy, and of easy access. They have made us forget that Jesus taught us the value and greatness of sacrifice through his word and example. Did you know that sacrificing your comfort is useful for strengthening your spirit? Therefore, Jesus promoted fasting and being of service to others. Leaving comforts behind invites me to see to others and not think only about myself. Giving what I have received in being of service to others opens the door to spiritual happiness.

Are you a slave of vices? You are probably thinking: no, I’m not a slave to that. I don’t smoke marijuana, I don’t do cocaine, and I only drink beer when I go out. These are certainly vices, but they are not the only ones. Can you go a whole day without checking your Facebook or Instagram account? Do you pay attention to the conversation your parents are having over dinner, or do you prefer to constantly check who wrote you via WhatsApp? These new technological vices can make you a slave to a cybernetic life that distances you from reality and, most importantly, from your relationship with your family and those closest to you.

Are you a slave or do you have a free heart? As the Holy Father explains: “We become slaves to ourselves when we think freedom is doing what we want all the time.” The freedom of the heart is found in service, solidarity, hope, working, and struggling to get ahead.

To be free from spiritual slavery, you have to follow a plan that goes against the current. Freedom and happiness mean having the capacity to feel sadness when confronted with the pain and needs of others. Let’s join Pope Francis and pray: “Jesus, teach us how to dream, to dream beautiful things, things that may seem insignificant but make the heart bigger. Lord Jesus, give us strength, a free heart, give us hope, give us love, and teach us how to serve one another.”

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