So St. Paul in today's reading talks a lot about freedom: where does it come from? What does it mean for us? He concludes with that spectacular summary, "For freedom Christ has set us free, therefore stand firm and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second time."
I heard recently from one of our lay cooperators. He's a computer programmer, originally from India and now living and working in Illinois. On the feast of St. Francis he took the train to downtown Chicago and completed his citizenship exam and interview. The way he wrote about the freedom that is now his as an American citizen helps me grasp what St. Paul meant about "the yoke of slavery," because this man, a Catholic in a Hindu country, was under great societal and legal pressure to conform to the Hindu religious customs in his native land. Here's the new citizen, speaking for himself: "Thank you for your Prayers, I made it, I am an American. I am free, now I can eat Sausage as much as I want right in the middle of the road and nobody can stop me from eating. No more guilt feelings for eating Sausage, AMERICA is the LAND OF THE FREE."
Isn't that amazing? Not only was there the pressure to conform exteriorly to the cultural norms--even his conscience was troubled. This is the "yoke of slavery" Jesus set us free from. Even, Paul would insist, for little things like eating sausage.*
*Paul was insistent that we not judge or be judged about the food we eat or the religious customs we observe, as long as no one was scandalized. The one law he knew we could never be free from (for that wouldn't be freedom at all) was the law of love.