At general audience, Pope Francis explains the correct use of Christian freedom

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up to those gathered at his general audience on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. / Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2024 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday the Holy Spirit gives us the freedom to do good and to serve others — and not to do whatever we want or to exploit the weak.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly public audience, the pope gave the second lesson in a series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church.

The June 5 encounter was centered on the Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Pope Francis arrives at his general audience on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“A free person, a free Christian, is the one who has the Spirit of the Lord,” Francis explained. “This is a very special freedom, quite different from what is commonly understood. It is not freedom to do what one wants, but the freedom to freely do what God wants. Not freedom to do good or evil, but freedom to do good and do it freely, that is, by attraction, not compulsion.”

“In other words,” he continued, it is “the freedom of children, not slaves.”

The pontiff also reflected on the name by which the Holy Spirit is called in the Bible, because, he said, a name is an important part of a person and how we address, distinguish, and remember him or her.

We know the third person of the Trinity by the name “Holy Spirit,” he explained, but the prophets, psalmists, Mary, Jesus, and the apostles invoked the Spirit with the name “‘Ruach,’ which means breath, wind, a puff of air.”

Pope Francis blesses children at his general audience on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis said names are very important in the Bible and that they say something about the person and his origin or mission.

The name Ruach can also tell us something about the Holy Spirit, he said. “The image of the wind serves first of all to express the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus, the pontiff said, also associates the Spirit with freedom. “To Nicodemus, who visits him at night, Jesus solemnly says: ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit’ (Jn 3:8).”

A characteristic of the wind is that it cannot be bottled up or put in a box, he said. “It is free.”

Francis warned against the temptation “to enclose the Holy Spirit in canons, institutions, definitions.”

“The Spirit creates and animates institutions, but he himself cannot be ‘institutionalized,’ ‘objectified.’ The wind blows ‘where it wills,’ so the Spirit distributes its gifts ‘as it wills,’ he said, quoting from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Pope Francis gives a blessing at his general audience on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope noted that there is also the possibility to misuse or abuse freedom, as St. Paul was aware, and wrote about in his letter to the Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as a pretext for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal 5:13).”

“We know well when this freedom becomes a ‘pretext for the flesh,’ the pontiff continued. “Paul gives an ever relevant list: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.’”

Pope Francis said the exploitation of the poor, the weak, and the environment by those richer and stronger is also a misuse of freedom and not the freedom of the Spirit.

“Where do we draw this freedom of the Spirit, so contrary to the freedom of selfishness?” he said. “The answer is in the words Jesus addressed one day to his listeners: ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (Jn 8:36). [This is] the freedom that Jesus gives us. Let us ask Jesus to make us, through his Holy Spirit, truly free men and women. Free to serve, in love and joy.”

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