The reading today is from Jeremiah 40:1-16 (Verse 4) “I have just released you today from the fetters on your hands.”
Freedom is a tough topic to tackle, because so many of us have our own idea of what freedom means, that it stops at freedom simply being the ability to do whatever it is we want to do. And to a certain extent that is what freedom is, it entails living a life free from compulsion, which means that we are able to live without giving in to every little desire that pops into your head, because some of them might not actually be for our greater good. Now living without compulsion doesn’t mean that we need to ignore all of our desires, because that is a sad and pitiful way to live, because it means that we are giving up so much that is good about experiencing the world. Living like that would actually be repressing our freedom: we would be activly choosing not to choose in a sense. The (best/funniest/most relatable) example of these two ways of life and the path to the middle ground can be found in the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man” where he begins in a sad life where he always says no to any decision, then he goes to a seminar where he agrees to say ‘yes’ to any opportunity that presents itself to him. Ultimately this lands him in a load of trouble and he learns when it is appropriate to say yes and no to situations. Jim Carrey aside, we need to do this in our own lives, to mediate which desires will lead us closer to God and our ultimate end, which is eternal happiness. Now when I say happiness, I’m not talking about the feeling, the feeling of happiness is just being contented or satisfied. No, I’m talking about a deeper happiness: Joy. Joy is the true happiness, and it is something that remains even in times of sorrow, which is a weird paradox, but it can happen, I’ll give you a hypothetical story to explain, and maybe some of you have experienced this same situation.
Imagine you’ve lost a loved one, for many of us it has happened, it is an incredibly sorrowful time for everyone involved. There are people around you who empathize and sympathize with with you, visiting you and you know that they will be there to help you or be a shoulder to cry on, throughout this whole ordeal. And you can’t help but smile a little, because of all the love that your friends and family have for you in this time of strife, because of their comforting presence in your life.
This may not be anyone else’s experience with loss, but it is an example of the transendence of joy in life, and of the happiness that endures, the happiness we all desire, however deep down it may be in your heart. There are many activities in our lives that inhibit our ability to feel that true joy, for example from my life; video games blocked me off from really being able to choose things that were good for me, like entering into my hometown’s community. They were almost exclusively the reason I didn’t continue pursuing a science degree in university. It all worked out in the end, but that is because God is able to bring goodness out of every situation, not any particular action on my part.
Anyways, Freedom. It is a tough virtue to cultivate, because life is so full of things that, if left unmoderated, will detract from our ability to live life to the fullest. I encourage all who read this to look closely at their lives and ask themselves honestly “What activities are detracting from my freedom?” To close off this reflection, I’m going to name and define the two kinds of freedom, as a sort of formal review, which I discovered courtesy of one of my friend’s reasearch paper. The first kind of freedom is the freedom of indifference, which is the freedom to do ‘whatever I want, whenever I want to.’ It is this kind of freedom that shackles us to need to do certain activities and leads us to compulsion, leaving us not actually free to choose at all, like St. Paul says: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19) The second kind of freedom is called the freedom for excellence, that is the freedom we have when we are free from the compulsion or addiction that basically forces us to choose whatever it is we are addicted to; this freedom actually allows us to be able to choose that true happiness, to be able to acutally choose the good things we wish to do. Coupled with the understanding that we will fall, but running to the Father for forgiveness whenever we do, so that we can continue to pursue the good.