When God created the world he gave human beings a special power which sets us apart from other creatures. This power makes people more like God, and yet its misuse can drive people away from God. People have fought and died for the right to exercise this power, and others have attempted to suppress it in order to gain complete domination over individuals and nations. This awesome power is freedom.
Although we have instincts like those of the animals, we are not completely controlled by them. We have the ability to choose. A hungry animal when faced with food has no option, it is driven to eat, it can’t help itself. And yet an equally hungry man or woman can, for whatever reason, choose not to eat. And so it’s no wonder that the Scriptures present the problem of freedom within the context of forbidden fruit. The Tree of Life is presented as a symbol of the fact that we human beings are called to choose what is good, and that God directs us in what is the real good of life.
When God gave us the gift of freedom he ran the risk that we would abuse this gift. And yet he judged the risk to be worthwhile. God wants us to return his love freely, not by compulsion. He sees value only in love which is freely given. God doesn’t want robots who must respond to the proper command.
The fact that we are here at Mass today shows that we have used our gift of freedom well. We could be elsewhere, reading a newspaper or washing the car. We have freely chosen to show our love for God by coming to Mass to worship him, and making this an important part of our daily routine, and the most sacred and special time of our day as a religious community. Love freely given is, without doubt, pleasing to God, and despite the dangers of freedom, we should be glad that God has given us this most extraordinary gift.