This week I started an online Ignatian Retreat. So far so good, although I have not been able to devote as much time to prayer and meditation as I hoped for. One of the themes this week is on Spiritual Freedom. A copy of the reflection is set forth below:
Spiritual freedom is an interior freedom, a freedom of the mind and heart. People who are spiritually free know who they are—with all of their gifts and limitations—and are comfortable with who they are.
However, we have numerous preoccupations that get in the way of our hearing and responding to God’s call: fears, prejudices, greed, the need to control, perfectionism, jealousies, resentments, and excessive self-doubts. These tendencies bind us and hold us back from loving God, ourselves, and others as we ought to. They create chaos in our souls and lead us to make poor choices.
Lacking spiritual freedom, we become excessively attached to persons, places, material possessions, titles, occupations, honors, and the acclaim of others. These things are good in themselves when ordered and directed by the love of God. They become disordered attachments when they push God out of the center of our lives and become key to our identity.
The Grace I Seek
I pray for the following graces: to grow in interior freedom; to become more aware of disordered attachments that get in the way of loving God, others, or myself.
This theme fits nicely as Lynda, one of the most loyal and insightful commentators on this blog had another magnificent contemplative gem for me:
“Thinking about a cosmic consciousness and being aware of my own experiences of feeling part of something much greater is a source of freedom of spirit. The more I learn, the greater the freedom I experience and the more I realize “the importance of the Whole”.”
This brought me back to a reflection I did this summer on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time on authentic Christian freedom vs. what 21st century Western society considers freedom:
One of the comments I hear from people (both non-believers and believers) on religion in general and Christianity in particular is that it is a stifling set of rules that limit human freedom. These people view commitment to a belief system and person freedom as incompatible. This view reflects an incomplete view of freedom.
True freedom involves the interior spirituality to live as God intended you to live. The Christian sense of freedom (which is shared by non-Christian religions such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) involves orienting one’s life towards God with a radical detachment from anything that gets in the way of this goal such as money, property, status, success, achievements, ego and the like. This message is very counter-cultural, especially for advanced Western societies that value wealth, status and material possessions. This message is also very different than so-called Christians who promote the gospel of “health and wealth”. The truly free person is someone who is indifferent as to these matters and, to the extent they have them, use them as tools to serve God and others rather than as ends in and of themselves. That is why there is an increasing rate of depression and mental health issues in Western Society; we are treating wealth, status and physical desires as ends rather than as a means to serving God.
St. Paul summarized what true freedom means in today’s wonderful reading to the Galatians:
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The free person does exactly what he wants because what he passionately wants is a world of truth, and caring, and sharing, and inner security and peace. Of course, he does not always get these things from others because they do not share his vision but he sees that as their problem rather than his.
And so we find this freedom in people such as Jesus, in Elisha, in Paul. More recently we found it in the lives of people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Oscar Romero and Blessed Mother Teresa. They said an unconditional ‘Yes’ to Jesus and had a radical indifference to the values of wealth, status and power that permeate our world.