Jesus answered: ‘Will you lay down your life for me?’ - John 13:38

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning Spontaneity - Freedom and Choices

Freedom in today's society seems to only refers to the ability to choose between alternatives. In the Western world, freedom is measured by the freedom of speech, movement, voting etc. Freedom is personal autonomy. Yet strangely, our world is still haunted by a lack of freedom. We are mentally imprisoned by drugs, alcohol, money, poverty and loneliness. What the world needs is our gospel freedom because our faith in this Christian religion invites us to a peculiar freedom.

In Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery".

Yet before we can speak of freedom with conviction, we need to be liberated from whatever holds us captive.

There is no explanation of Christian freedom, but we can look at it in action at the Last Supper. This sign of hope is the freest of all acts. Passover meal was the feast of Israel's liberationfrom slavery in Egypt. The Last Supper invites us to deeper freedoms - the freedom of spontaniety and ultimately, the freedom of giving away our lives.

Ultimately freedom is about acting from the very core of one's being. A deeper freedom which we must identify is being who we are. The virtues are roads to freedom, and our deepest freedom is spontaneously doing what is good, because it is what we most deeply desire.

Certainly one may ask how can we be free, especially in the Catholic Church where we have got so many laws and teachings that we are to adhere to. How the commandments do not seem to have any freedom. Yet exactly, these laws and teachings are there to teach us freedom, and to remind us of what we most deeply desire. They are really our moral guide- to guide us in choosing something which we most desire because it is the best thing to do.

Citing an example about the boycotting of the Da Vinci Code film 2/3 years back. The Church has officially issued a boycott on this film but many felt that it shouldn't have been the case. Their rationale was that by boycotting it, people would only want to watch it even more ( a case of eating the 'forbidden fruit'). There is then the issue of freedom to watch anything we want. However, if the Church did not issue a boycott, we would not know that watching this film is wrong. The Church's teachings are our moral guide, guiding us in choosing what is best for us, even when we fail to understand it.

We need rules and commandments just as a pianist needs a scales. Ethics is entirely concerned with doing what you want, that is to say with being free. Most of the difficulties arise from the difficulty of recognizing what we want.

Yet spontaneity is not doing the first thing that comes into one's head. It is acting from the core of one's being, where God is, sustaining one in existence.

Look at Jesus - he did everything spontaneously. He sees the disciples on the shore and he calls them. He had not made a mental note to find some disciples, and then considered whether these men might be suitable candidates. He sees the young rich man, and he loves him without hesistation. He sees Zacchaeus up the tree and immediately he says 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your home today'. Jesus often acts with speed. It is not that Jesus is hurried, but rather his actions are unhesistating and sure.

For us, such spontaneity is the fruit of a deep travail, of rebirth. Think of the Fransican in Aushwitz, Maximilian Kolbe. One day in the summer of 1941, three prisoners escaped from the concentration camp, so the Gestapo decided to kill ten prisoners in return. Where these were lined up, Father Kolbe suddenly stepped forward and pointed at one of the men, who was married and had children, and took his place. Kolbe was excuted. It was the spontaneous act of a deeply free person. It took years of small good acts to learn to do that, making mistakes and trying again, practising the scales of spontaneity.

It is then usually assumed in our consumer world that the more choices one has, the freer one is. It one can choose between ten sorts of drinks then one is freer than if one had just two brands. But when one has grown into that deeper freedom which is spontaneity, it may become the other way around. There are just a few deep and fundamental choices to be made and these are concerned with becoming free and happy in God. There is one single long-term goal, which shapes one's life and gives it coherence. So one has to opt for certain choices because they are simply part of being oneself. Jesus is definitely the best example where his deepest freedom was that he could do no other than the Father's will.

Entering into that freedom, which is Christ's own gift, requires that we be liberated from the wrong idea of God. We must destory the idol of God as a big, powerful person, who bosses us around and tells us what to we must do if he is to like us. We must discover the God who is the source of freedom bubbling up in the very core of our being, and granting us existence in every moment.

Let us always remember this verse from 1 Corinthians, "If in freedom we do not live for God, we risk falling back into the slavery of sin."

This freedom that we have, is meant to do God's will and for the needs of our brothers and sisters. For in Galatians 5:13 it says, "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love."

So let us be free from sin and always be spontaneous to do what is right and what is just.

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