Catechetical Spot

“The Meaning of Freedom”

The month of July brings with it, of course, the celebration of Independence Day.  It is celebrated with fireworks, family gatherings, large parties and often in small and large cities festivities of many kinds.  Perhaps in the past, people have celebrated without much thought this time when the flag is waved, when bands march and when a sense of being free is the overriding concept.

How free are we? Freedom has taken on a different meaning during this time of the pandemic.   I have searched for some meaningful ways to connect the freedom that we take for granted to our Catholic Christian tradition. Theologian, Barnard Haring in his study of freedom and faithfulness connects the two by inserting the word responsibility.  William Sloan Coffin, another religious writer speaks of freedom in this way.  “So let us term freedom of choice less a virtue than a necessity, a precondition to real freedom, which is the ability to make choices that are generous, loving and wise.”  Spiritual philosopher Kierkegaard writes, “In all our own “freedom” we actually seek one thing: to be able to live without responsibility.”

It seems that during this pandemic time, freedom centers so much on individual freedom limiting the responsibility that comes with it.  As Catholic Christians we have as the center of our lives, the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not live his life without concern for others.  All he did was for others in his preaching, his healing all the way to his death on the cross and his resurrection.  He was committed to the will of the Father.  So too are we called to understand that to be truly free we cannot divorce ourselves from responsibility for one another.  That means we are to be responsible for our neighbor considering the common good.  We are to commit ourselves to social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands. If our understanding of freedom is linked to responsibility, we will find that we are truly free, doing the will of God on earth.

~by Helen Ackermann