O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open.  O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Today we address our awaited Messiah as ‘Key of David’ and our antiphon paints a graphic picture of Him as a leader who unlocks prisons and leads the captives to freedom.  Our first thoughts may turn to all those who are in prisons throughout our world; those who are slaves to addictions and violence; to those areas where there is war and unjust governments – the list is endless.

While keeping all these in mind I was drawn to reflect on the meaning of true freedom and what it means for each of us in our daily lives.  Freedom is a theme which is dear to human beings from the beginning and which we find woven into the pages of both Old and New Testaments. Israel was formed as a people when Moses led a group of nomadic slaves through the desert towards the promised land of freedom – a symbol of our Baptism where Jesus our true leader leads us from the darkness of sin to the liberty of the children of God as St Paul reminds us: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13–14).   

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in search of liberation, always in search of inner balance and unity.  Unfortunately we seek it in the wrong places and our modern world would have us believe that it means being able to do what we want irrespective of the consequences for others.  We forget that Jesus has already freed us from sin and has set us on the road to true freedom.  As He tells us:

“If you make my word your home
you will indeed by my disciples;
you will come to know the truth
and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31)

Mary is the one par excellence who made His word her home and in this morning’s Gospel we see her freely placing her young life in the hands of her God to do with as He pleased not knowing that it would lead her to the foot of the Cross and beyond. What an example of faith and courage!  Jesus leads us too on a journey of faith which begins with our Baptism and continues until He calls us to Himself.  It is a journey leading us from the prison of our own selfishness to the freedom of loving as He loves – to the point of laying aside all personal preferences so as to bring life to others that they too may experience the freedom of love.  Faith awakens our freedom from within – because God does not force our wills – rather He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, waiting for our response.  He is always inviting us beyond our present horizons of selfishness and promising us a “land flowing with milk and honey” which is nothing less than Himself for He can only give Himself. We only become free when we do good because we love the good.

Jesus brings us to freedom through the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation – he unbinds us and lets us go free as when he raised Lazarus from the dead.  Yet He freely allowed himself to be bound in swaddling clothes in the manger and wrapped in the shroud in the tomb.  He is not God from afar but chose to be one of us so much so that our wounds are forever engraved on His hands and he invites us to ‘go and do likewise’ (cf Lk 10:37).

The road to true freedom is long and hard and is never complete till we meet our Saviour face to face but our faith assures us that Jesus walks with us and is Himself the key which unlocks the hidden wisdom of our God who is always at work in the great and small events of our lives leading us from the slavery of sin and selfishness to the true liberty of the sons of God. 

O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open.  O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.