We’ve never been so free!

In general, people have never been as free as they are today. More than 10 years ago, a letter appeared in the Tablet stating that, ‘the new generation … is different. Better education, a growing awareness of each person’s democratic rights, enlightened discussion in the media and a rising standard of living, have conspired to give (people) a higher sense of dignity.’ People today are more inclined than earlier generations to make up their own minds about issues that aff

We call this freedom. The process may be temporarily side tracked in Zimbabwe or Syria but we sense that it cannot be halted. Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna says, ‘today we live in a culture of freedom, and that is a very good thing as it is when we are free that we most resemble God.’ To choose is the greatest form of activity and the search and struggle for freedom is the noblest of all journeys.

We are in the time of Easter and we read that Jesus ‘lay down his life of his own free will’ (John 10:18). Although he had some followers he was faced with the basic fact that most people, and all the official structures of Judaism, rejected him. He was, if you like, cornered. He could still opt for a quiet life and give up his mission but that would be to give up on the whole reason why he had come: ‘that they might have life and give it to the full.’

So his only option was to freely choose to grapple with the very forces that lay behind the Jews’ failure to receive him (John 1:11). These forces had to be confronted in their roots. They would do all they could to destroy him. They could execute him after a mock trial but that is as far as they could go.

What we celebrate at Easter is that the inner life of Jesus was not just a human life as we know it – and so subject to fear and limitations – but a divine life which he had been longing to share with us all the time. This divine life could not be enclosed in a human tomb; it had to break out and in so doing it cracked the code of evil and opened the way for people to stand up and exercise their freedom without fear.

How else can we understand the courage of Peter, a broken man after his triple denial only a few weeks before but now standing up and saying, ’rulers of Israel and elders … I am glad to tell you all … that Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, … is now the keystone’? (Acts 4:8-12)

Freedom is not just the power to choose anything I like, of course; it is the power to choose what is in harmony with what is deepest within me. So, to choose something, that gives me immediate satisfaction but has long term harmful consequences for me or for others, is not part of freedom. Augustine said a long time ago, ‘to choose to do evil is not part of freedom.’ The good life is a path I freely choose, sometimes painfully.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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