When I haven’t been musing about bishops, my thoughts have gone back to freedom. While reading some of my favourite blogs, I watched a report on the Pope’s words from St Peter’s on 29th April. A line in the commentary struck me. The Holy Father had said that the voice of God is always calling but we are afraid to hear because it might take away our freedom. He went on to describe the life of each of us as a love story.

So why might we fear that we might lose our freedom, when God loves us and searches us out? What definition of freedom might we have? Our society, driven by consumerism sees the height of freedom as being unlimited choice. To choose our life-style, determine everything that happens in our life and say and think what we like. Love is always an encumbrance to this sort of freedom for committing our self to another limits our choice.

A Christian understanding of freedom is very different from a secular one. St Ignatius of Loyola had very clear ideas about freedom and this is a key theme in the Spiritual Exercises. It occurs really early on in an Ignatian retreat, in the “Principle and Foundation”. All the gifts we have are there in order that we might discover God.

Ignatius talks about us holding ourselves in balance in the face of many choices. Where we seem to have choice, we are free when we can consider which choice leads us to God. The end of the Principle and Foundation says this:

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: Iwant and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in me. (Fleming translation)

However, we, as fallen human beings, can forget this and gifts given to help us discover God can become used to serve other ends. Choice can become self-serving rather than being about being open to God’s love. ( A video on one of the Loyola Press websites describes this in more detail.)

The Thomas Merton quote used in our last Lent group put it like this:

“The obstacle is in our “self”, that is to say in the tenacious need to maintain our separate, external, egotistical will. It is when we refer all things to this outward and false self that we alienate ourselves from reality and from God. It is then the false self that is our god, and we love everything for the sake of this self. We use all things, so to speak, for the worship of this idol, which is our imaginary self. In so doing we pervert and corrupt things, or rather we turn our relationship to them into a corrupt and sinful relationship. We do not thereby make them evil, but we use them to increase our attachment to our illusory self…”

The very thing that seems to promise freedom turns into enslavement for it cuts us off from Love. We cannot achieve true freedom, for we are living with a ‘reality ‘that is a lie.

Merton finishes by saying:

“The only joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into the union with the Life who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.”

True Spiritual Freedom is a beautiful reality. It is when we discover who we truly are and that we are loved by our Creator.