Posted on: Jul 1, 2021
Summer is the season of freedom—the freedom of vacations as well as the freedom we celebrate with patriotic holidays. Memorial Day is the warm-up observance. Then we really let loose for the 4th of July.
Whether with vacations or patriotic holidays, we celebrate this freedom as personal freedom. I recall in decades past how people expressed this individual freedom as being able to do whatever you wanted, as long as you didn’t hurt anyone else in the process—sort of a “do no harm” mantra.
We don’t hear much about this kind of freedom anymore. Instead, a driven egotism predominates: I can do whatever I please as long as it benefits me, myself and mine.
This attitude has become the foundation of an American tragedy on which many strive to construct mighty fortresses. The tragedy lies in the ultimate destruction that accompanies such values—destruction for the individuals who hold that value, and destruction for all who live beyond the boundaries of me, myself and mine.
The sadness that accompanies this tragedy is that most who perpetuate me, myself and mine don’t realize the destruction they inflict on others as well as themselves.
The disruption caused by COVID has laid bare the depth and breadth of this tragedy. The fight between me/myself/mine and the common good is increasingly intense.
“In every personal ‘COVID,’ so to speak, in every ‘stoppage,’ what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected.'”1
Richard Rohr points to the needed changes with these words: “We need both personal liberation and liberation from unjust and harmful systems….
“We all think we are freely and consciously making our own choices when…most people live most of their lives unconsciously!…We are basically sleepwalking, going through the motions on the surface of life, which is why spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha tell us to ‘wake up.’
“When our ego or small self is in charge, we are not free; we are being ordered about by our preferences, our likes and dislikes. Is it really liberating to believe the world revolves around us—or conversely, that we must hold it all together?
“As we…allow [the Holy] to transform us through great love and great suffering, we are reminded of our inherent connectedness. We are liberated from thinking of ourselves as somehow separating from everyone and everything else, including God.”
Rohr goes on to point out how “Pope Francis recognizes this freedom in the healthcare professionals who have risked their lives and worked so hard for so many months.
“[Healthcare workers] are the saints next door, who have awoken something important in our hearts…. They are the antibodies to the virus of indifference. They remind us that our lives are a gift and we grow by giving of ourselves: not preserving ourselves but losing ourselves in service.'”2
Rohr again references Pope Francis to reinforce how authentic freedom comes only as we consider the rights and well-being of others along with that of ourselves [You shall love your neighbor as yourself—Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31]. “Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.”3
With God’s help, we can live this way.
1Pope Francis, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (Simon & Shuster:2020), 36.
2Pope Francis, 13.
3Pope Francis, 27.
Richard Rohr comments from https://cac.org/authentic-freedom-2021-01-19/