What are you doing with your freedom? In Europe, but also in other regions of the world, this question is being put more and more forcefully.
A forgiveness that frees
Anyone can be free! If you realize that Jesus loves us no matter what, that is already freedom. You can be freer if you are in a good relationship with all the people you know; family, friends, workmates... Ask them for forgiveness if you ever hurt them in any way and, if they ask for your forgiveness, forgive them. In this way you can enjoy mental freedom and a peaceful heart. In this way your mind is free of negative thoughts and full of positive attitudes, ready to rejoice with others.
With freedom like this, I will try to be a servant of God by helping those who are in material need, in need of love and a listening ear.
And above all, I will share with others how I managed to get my freedom, introduce them to God and to the Gospel.
Surrendering to God
I grew up in a Christian family but I didn’t have a personal relationship with God, so I always felt limited in my own freedom. As a teenager, I turned away from God and started to deny his existence. I thought that I could do anything I wanted, that that was my freedom. But actually, I lost it completely.
My life turned out to be so miserable. I got into very deep problems. I was a drug addict for many years and an alcoholic since age fourteen. My life had no meaning. I made my “free” choices, but went only deeper and deeper down. I got addicted with everything I tried.
All that time, my sister prayed for me and, one day, God started to talk to me. Joy, peace and happiness acquired a new meaning. Now I know that only being in God’s plan makes you free. Surrendering to God in everything makes your spirit so free! It brought me back to life.
Using our freedom
Kristin & Maria (Germany)
Freedom can be dangerous for faith when it is misused. For example in the Bible story of the golden calf, the Israelites misused their freedom and probably would not have recognized their error were it not for Moses. That is why the way we use our freedom is important for our faith. The transition between freedom and dependency is not very great. When you accept that certain things are important for you and for the community, then they can become a part of your personal freedom, even when other people see them as constraints. In Taizé we see that such a life together works, and that freedom is something good.
What do we do with our choices?
We live in an era in which desire and the fulfilment of desire is very much confused with the appropriate use of our freedom. As young people, I believe this can make it particularly difficult for us to decipher our authentic call from God amidst the noise, confusion and competing demands of all the desires we are told we must respond to.
Nevertheless, when we encounter our faith in its fullness and are called close to the heart of God, we begin to touch upon our deepest desire... for him. Ultimately, nothing other than love in the Lord and our journey towards the infinite depths of the Lord can satisfy us fully. Yet we are given the free gift to decide how to respond to God, to his unique call in our lives and the freedom to manifest our love for him.
At the heart of our true choice therefore is the free decision to love God, to listen to his promptings and to respond to the highest reality of the individual vocation for which each person has been created.
In February, I spent two weeks in a psychological hospital as part of my studies to be a social worker. A psychological hospital, especially the parts that are "closed", is a place where freedom is not easy to find. People who live there are not able to leave the hospital, sometimes not even their room, because doors are closed. It was a strange feeling for me to know I am able to enter and to leave the "closed" part of this hospital whenever I want to because I have a key but the people who live there don’t. There is also a room where some people are watched 24 hours a day. Locked doors, watched rooms – no privacy – not a place of freedom.
But these people are also called to be free and to have own wishes, their own behavior and to move where and when they want to. First of all, it is part of human rights and the second thing is that they are also called by God to freedom, in the same way as the doctors, the psychologists and we are called to be free. And I think it is not our responsibility to judge when this freedom is used in a proper way, but to create a place where we can be a help for these people without reducing their freedom.
One example, to be more concrete. People come into the "closed" part if they wanted or want to commit suicide. Then they are watched so that they can’t become a danger, in this case for themselves. But I had an experience with one woman. She came one morning and said to the social worker: "Last night I wanted to end my life. I felt that there was no way out and that it was over. I took my car, drove to the station and walked around near the railway. But after a while I went back to my car and came back here to the hospital because I want to live. And: I need your help for that." I was very touched because I knew that this night was also an experience of freedom for that woman, a moment of free will that she used to choose life.
Benefitting from freedom, even reduced
Today, here in Europe, but also all over the world, we have more and more opportunities. Our freedom may seem unlimited; we think that we can do everything and we forget how big the value of this heritage is. Sometimes we also forget in the sea of options that freedom comes with responsibility for me and for others.
Recently I heard a story about a man who had been convicted innocently and spent many years in jail. We could think that after his release he would try to take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy his freedom. But when he could go home at least, his first act was to give thanks to God, and to express this by fasting for several days. What could real freedom mean for him? And for you? What are you doing with your freedom?