“False notions of freedom”.Jacque Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 11)
Phillippe intimates that the 20th century has seen many forms of false freedom: Individualism, communism, – the desperate attempt to overcome limitations, including a desire for supermarket freedom. False notions of freedom are incredibly alluring. They make huge promises about our happiness but never really deliver. In the end the difference between authentic and inauthentic freedom is the question: what motivates me? Pleasure or character? Do I look only at myself? Or beyond myself – to another. The saints, like St Therese, despite the smallness of her life and circumstances never gave the impression of being restricted.
A calm amidst the storm
“ Just when all her exterior freedoms were being taken away, she discovered within herself a happiness and interior freedom that no one could steal from her. “Jacque Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 22)
The above quote was very familiar to Stina. She shared that there was a sense, during the stress of deportation, where she felt like all that she knew, and had built was moments away from being stripped. Her roots, community connections, career, it was all about to be brutally torn out. But instead it actually did create a sense of interior freedom. Stina describes it as ‘oh well, those things are out of my control. I am taking the steps that I can each day, but outside of that, there is nothing else I can do. So I will just have to leave it with God now’. That became her everyday. Which meant that when the pandemic hit she wasn’t panicking and was able to support people through grief and loss at her workplace. It’s almost as though when the exterior freedoms are reeled back, and taken from us, we’re reminded of what freedom we truly possess, the interior freedom, and what we choose to do with that. We can choose to be possessive over it, cause angst and anger OR we can choose to freely give that to God, knowing there is no other place safer than in his hands. And he doesn’t leave us empty when we give him that interior freedom either, he gifts us overflowing peace and happiness in return. So generous!
Being free to that accept that which we did not originally choose. We often think of choice as being active from beginning to end. When we see a thing we want, we choose said thing. But sometimes we find ourselves in situations we would not choose, face suffering we would prefer to void. Acceptance of these circumstances are part of what allows Christ to transform human suffering after the pattern of his own. The situations that really make us grow are those that sit outside of our control.
We want to be able to choose in every aspect of our lives. And choices aren’t a bad thing. But to suggest, not having a choice takes away from our freedom, isn’t necessarily entirely true. Our interior freedom is not dependent upon the choices that are made for us. We didn’t get to choose how we were born, what our genetics are, our natural talents or what economic status we were born into. If we choose to rebel against these or call ‘forfeit’ to these, then we remain chained. Yet in accepting these with trust, we become truly free. ‘One cannot become truly free unless one accepts not always being free’.
We live in a ‘suffering averse’ society an will do everything we can to avoid any form of suffering. Does this mean we should take on unnecessary suffering when healing is available to us? Absolutely not! If a bone is broken, get it mended. If you have a headache, take a pill. But where there is no immediate solution or healing, consenting to the difficult is the better alternative. ‘ We should not limit ourselves to accepting things grudgingly, but should truly consent to them – not to endure them, but in a sense ‘’choose’’ them (even if in fact we have no choice, and that’s what most annoys us). Choosing here means making a free act by which we not only resign ourselves but also welcome the situation… if we have enough Faith in God we know God can draw good out of anything’. So we can choose to consent to the difficulties just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘thy will be done’. This wasn’t an ‘I give up’ or ‘I don’t want this’, it was more of a ‘I consent to your will God, by uniting my will to yours’.
A higher calling
‘The holier we are the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don’t solve anything, judging, fostering bitterness, and resentment, refusing to forgive, and so on.‘Page 75 – Interior Freedom
‘there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man are what defile him!’Mark 7:14
Harm does not come to us from external circumstances but from how we react to them interiorly. We see this lived out beautifully in Mary. If there was any one person who we could have entirely understood if she, through grief, had become angry towards those who crucified Jesus, grew resentful towards the Jews, even bitter towards us whose sins nailed Jesus to the cross, it would have been Mary, the Mother of God. Yet, Mary chooses none of these. Despite seeing her most precious Son go through the passion and death, she doesn’t allow that evil to win over her heart. She was spiritually mature, which is a gift from God in itself and grows over time, to be untouched by that evil.
Consent to what we are
This statement initially made Padre uncomfortable. The whole point of the Christian life is that we are seeking to become perfect as the heavenly father is perfect. What are we doing accepting ourselves as we are? “We can only transform reality fruitfully, if we understand it” This means having the humility to see ourselves as we are and what aspects of ourselves which we cannot change on our own. The grace to change is in some ways dependent upon us accepting ourselves – after all, grace builds on nature. Seeing ourselves though is often a difficult task. We often don’t see the real us due to fear of not being loved, the (false) conviction of how little we are worth. When we fall, often we say things like: “I’m and evil man, I’m filthy, I’m unloveable, I’m hopeless.” We need to see ourselves as we are, and that means seeing ourselves through the eyes of God, and that gaze is so often mediated through friends, family and mentors. Through that gaze we not crushed by guilt, but set free by love.
TBG (Truth, Beauty, Goodness)
· Padre – Mum and Dad visited Narranderra
· SC: **Consecration to St Joseph by Greg Bottaro and Jennifer Settle – Asking St Joseph in a very special way to become a spiritual father to Stina, and to ask him to pray for her to love Jesus more deeply. It was a short reading on some aspect of the Holy Family for 44 days, followed by some reflective questions and a brief prayer. Highly recommend this book!
- When you realised your freedoms were being taken from you:
- What was your immediate, and long term response?
- Can you identify how they were linked?
- What false notions of freedom have I given into?
- Am I pulled towards ‘rebellion’ – anger or begrudging towards God? OR are towards ‘resignation’ – I forfeit, I give up.
- What will it take to choose consent?
- What disordered interior attachment will I have to let go of in order to become free to accept with trust?
- When I find that place of interior freedom, what do I feel inclined to do with it?
Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about this inclination.
- How do I approach suffering that I did not ask for?
- What limitations do I put on God as being plausible in my life?
- When I place myself in the gaze of God:
- What do I know to be true?
- What lies come to the surface that need God’s Very Real healing?
- Are there people in my life I turn to instead of the gaze of the Father?
- Who are they?
- What need do I believe God cannot fill that this other person/people can?
- What areas of my life are too painful that I struggle to believe God can bring good from it?
- How can I give God my consent in these areas?
- How am I yet to consent to who I am?
Listen to the Podcast here: https://www.virtueministry.org.au/podcast/