Pope: freedom is not 'every man for himself,' but is realized in charity, in service to others
"We know that one of the most widespread modern conceptions of freedom is this: 'my freedom ends where yours begins.' But here the relationship is missing! It is an individualistic vision. Instead, those who have received the gift of freedom brought about by Jesus cannot think that freedom consists in staying away from others, seeing them as a nuisance; they cannot see the human being as closed in on himself, but always part of a community." The spontaneous gesture of the little boy, who sat down next to Francis.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The freedom of the Christian is not individualistic, it does not end where that of the other begins, but has a social, community dimension: "we say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but the possibility to fully realize it. Because our freedom is born from the love of God and grows in charity". Freedom is realized in charity was the theme Pope Francis spoke about at today's general audience.
A meeting that began with the unscheduled appearance of a child who approached Francis and also sat, for a few moments near the Pope, on the chair left for him by a smiling Father Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. The Pope thanked him for the "lesson of freedom" given by the young boy.
He said "It brings to mind what Jesus said about the spontaneity and freedom of children, when this child had the freedom to approach and move as if he were at home ... And Jesus tells us: 'You too, if you do not make yourselves like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' The courage to approach the Lord, to be open to the Lord, not to be afraid of the Lord: I thank this child for the lesson he gave to all of us."
In his catechesis, continuing the cycle on Paul's Letter to the Galatians, the Pope therefore spoke of what is in the Letter "the heart" of freedom. It "is not a libertine way of living, according to the flesh or according to instinct, individual desires and selfish drives; on the contrary, the freedom of Jesus leads us to be - the Apostle writes - 'at the service of one another'. Freedom in Christ has some dimension of slavery; it puts us at the service of others. True freedom, in other words, is fully expressed in charity. Once again we find ourselves before the paradox of the Gospel: we are free in serving; we find ourselves fully to the extent to which we give ourselves; we possess life if we lose it (cf. Mk 8: 35). But how can this paradox be explained? The Apostle’s answer is as simple as it is demanding: “through love” (Gal 5: 13). It is Christ’s love that has freed us and again it is love that frees us from the worst slavery, that of the self; therefore, freedom grows with love. But beware: not with the intimist love of a soap opera, not with the passion that simply seeks out what we want and like, but with the love we see in Christ, charity: this is the love that is truly free and liberating. It is the love that shines out in gratuitous service, modelled on that of Jesus, who washes the feet of his disciples and says: “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13: 15). "
"Therefore, for Paul freedom is not “doing what you want and what you like”. This type of freedom, without an aim and without points of reference, would be an empty freedom. And indeed, it leaves emptiness within: how often, after following instinct alone, do we realise that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom, the beauty of being able to choose true goodness for ourselves and for others. Only this freedom is full, genuine, and places us in real everyday life. In another letter, the first to the Corinthians, the Apostle responds to those who support an incorrect idea of freedom. “All things are lawful!” they say. “Yes, but not all things are helpful”, Paul replies. “All things are lawful!” - "Yes, but not all things build up”, answers the Apostle. He then adds: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour” (1 Cor 10:23-24). To those who are tempted to reduce freedom only to their own tastes, Paul puts before them the need for love. Freedom guided by love is the only one that sets others and ourselves free, that knows how to listen without imposing, that knows how to love without forcing, that builds and does not destroy, that does not exploit others for its own convenience and does good without seeking its own benefit. In short, if freedom is not at the service of good, it runs the risk of being barren and not bearing fruit. On the other hand, freedom inspired by love leads towards the poor, recognising in their faces that of Christ."
"Therefore, the service of one another allows Paul, writing to the Galatians, to remark on something that is by no means secondary: speaking of the freedom that the other Apostles gave him to evangelise, he emphasises that they recommended only one thing: to remember the poor (cf. Gal 2:10). We know, however, that one of the most widespread modern conceptions of freedom is this: “my freedom ends where yours begins”. But here the relationship is missing! It is an individualistic vision. On the other hand, those who have received the gift of freedom brought about by Jesus cannot think that freedom consists in keeping away from others, as if they were a nuisance; the human being cannot be regarded as closed up in himself, but always part of a community. The social dimension is fundamental for Christians, and it enables them to look to the common good and not to private interest. Especially in this historical moment, we need to rediscover the communitarian, not individualist, dimension of freedom: the pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this; we need to choose it in a tangible way every day. Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather the possibility to fully realise it. Because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity."