Freedom is the big word in our contemporary society. Freedom is not about doing what I want.
In his spontaneous and affective conversation he had with students attending Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania, on 7 June 2013, Pope Francis cleverly observed: “Freedom means knowing how to reflect on what we do, knowing how to evaluate, which are the behaviours that make us grow. It means always choosing the good…. Being free to always choose the good is challenging, but it will make you persons with a backbone, who know how to face life, [and live as] courageous and patient persons”.
The core of freedom is found within the human person’s spirit. Recently I was introduced to an interesting book written by a French priest, Fr Jacques Philippe, named Interior Freedom. In this profound book this seasoned spiritual director and much sought preacher of retreats speaks at length on this topical theme. Any person, in his and her senses, is craving for interior freedom.
Interior freedom does not mean avoiding pain and dwelling on comfortable and pleasant experiences. Fr Philippe writes: “Those who habitually seek to avoid all pain and experience only what is pleasant and comfortable, will sooner or later find themselves carrying far heavier crosses than those who try to consent to sufferings it would be unrealistic to try to eliminate”.
Greater interior freedom is achieved when a person, motivated by his and her total faith in God, gives himself and herself to others. Any help that that person might receive from his and her neighbour is considered a great gift from the Provident Heavenly Father.
“They do all the good they can. They receive what their neighbour may do for them with joy and gratitude, but in great freedom, because their support is in God alone. They are untroubled by their own weaknesses, nor do they blame others for not always meeting their expectations. Reliance on God alone protects them from all disappointment. It gives them great interior freedom, which they place entirely at the service of God and their fellow men, responding to love with love”.
The person who trusts God entirely is the one who lets the Holy Spirit empower him and her to see what happens in his and her life as God’s personal love and blessing.
“Our freedom always has this marvellous power to make what is taken from us—by life, events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference, but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love, loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness. It does not confer the power to change everything, but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things; and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives, but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them. Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love, abandonment, trust, hope, and offering. The most important and most fruitful acts of our freedom are not those by which we transform the outside world as those by which we change our inner attitude in light of the faith that God can bring good out of everything without exception”.
The pinnacle of our interior freedom is when we love as God loves.
“… The whole mystery of our redemption in Christ, by his incarnation, his death and his resurrection, consists of this marvellous exchange: in the heart of Christ, God has loved us humanly, so as to render our human hearts capable of loving divinely. God became man so that man might become God—might love as only God is capable of loving, with the purity, intensity, power, tenderness, and inexhaustible patience that belong to divine love. It is an extraordinary source of hope and a great consolation to know that, by virtue of God’s grace working in us (if we remain open to it by persevering in faith, prayer, and the sacraments), the Holy Spirit will transform and expand our hearts to the point of one day making them capable of loving as God loves”.
If you would like to give a special gift to a person you love and care for order for him and her Fr Jacques Philippe’s book Interior freedom.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap