Liberty of Spirit and Boldness and Creativity
Liberty of the Spirit
There is something in the inner person of everybody wants to be is nothing less than a true freedom to reach out, to achieve and to go beyond anything and everything. Nobody enjoys enslavements. Although this is innate in every human being, it can be raised to the level of virtue. As a virtue, liberty of spirit stands against the hedonistic lifestyle that our postmodern world propagates, exalting the secular virtues of sexual freedom and the pursuit of self-centered happiness at all cost. Liberty of Spirit is not a virtue that gives freedom for abuse. Pope Benedict rightly said when he explained, “The freedom to kill is not real freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery” Amidst the pervasive culture of control and death, we are called to give witness to the meaning of God’s gift of life in abundance (Jn.10:10).
Religious life as a path of Liberation:
The evangelical counsels of Chastity, poverty and obedience are meant to help us grow in inner freedom and in the virtue of liberty of Spirit. The vows we profess must challenge the postmodern interpretation of liberty. Our vows are public commitment to remain open to God who surprises us through marvelous unexpected things. Among the three vows, obedience is the clearest sign that will let God go on surprising us. We are called to a liberty of spirit – something which includes obedience but which excludes constraint, scruples and anxiety. In short liberty of Spirit is identical to obedience to God’s will.
The culture of Western society, strongly centered on the subject has contributed to the spread of the value of respect for the dignity of the human person positively fostering the person’s free development and autonomy. But in many societies this liberty of the spirit is not considered as a virtue or a value. There order and security are more important than human liberty and freedom. In a democratic society too, human liberty and freedom could be violated hence this virtue need to be cultivated.
Believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the God of Jesus Christ, must embark upon a path of personal liberation from every idolatrous cult. It is a path which can find its motivation in the Exodus experience: a path of liberation which leads from the acceptance of the common scattered way of thinking to the freedom of adhering to the Lord and from the monotony of one way of looking at things to itineraries that bring one to communion with the living and true God. In the exodus journey we see a group of slaves is freed to become a holy people who know the joy of free service to God. The exodus events are a paradigm which accompanies the entire biblical reality and is seen as a prophetic anticipation of the same earthly life of Jesus, who, in turn frees from slavery through obedience to the providential will of the Father.
In the light and the strength of the Spirit: Jesus said that it is the truth that makes one free (cf. John 8:32). Jesus himself in his humanity was led by the action of the Holy Spirit conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his mission, in his baptism he receives the Spirit which descends upon him and guides him, risen he pours forth the Spirit on his disciples that they might enter into the same mission, announcing the salvation and pardon which he merited. The Spirit who anointed Jesus is the same Spirit who can make our freedom similar to that of Christ, perfectly conformed to the will of God.
In our context: There are many societies whether it is secular or religious that put restrictions to the movements of the Spirit within oneself. It can be visible even in religious communities. Because of this even the concept of religious obedience is reinterpreted and reasserted in the document called “the service of authority and obedience-2008” .Hence we consider liberty of the Spirit as a contemporary virtue that one needs to discover, foster and nurture.
Questions for personal reflections:
1. When do you feel that your Spirit is not free and liberated?
2. How do you look at the vow of obedience that you professed? Do you respond to its call in freedom of the Spirit?
3. How do you react when a person in your community exercise his prophetic role in freedom and liberty?
4. How do you move around in the community? Are you afraid of anything or anybody other than God? How do you exercise your prophetic role in community life as well as in your apostolate?
5. Do you follow the vow of chastity, obedience and poverty in a spirit of freedom of your heart?
Suggestions for action: Participating actively in community sharing and discussions. Be open to the working of the Spirit within you. Maintain the unity of words and actions and avoid dichotomy. Be true to yourself
Reading could be John 8:32. One can easily evaluate how free one feels with oneself before others and share it in the community prayer meeting and discover the reasons for not being free. (It could be psychological, spiritual, moral or even just human)
- 2.Boldness and Creativity:
Conflicts are always a part of Christian life. Differences in opinions and worldviews bring about different stances from the most conservative to the most progressive. In the midst of conflictive situations, the dual virtue of boldness and creativity becomes essential to our Christian life. Why should boldness be a virtue? Why should it be combines with creativity as a contemporary virtue? Speaking of virtues, courage and fortitude have been considered as cardinal virtues and boldness is equal to courage. In fact we have to distinguish between boldness from courage or fortitude.
Courage is the virtue which enables one to stand firm in the face of danger, to offer resistance to an enemy. Christianity has assigned greater value to the passive aspect as in enduring hardships for ones faith, the greatest example of which is martyrdom. Boldness however is more likely to do something actively. It is not just a passive doing. Boldness is much more concerned with how one talk or how one behaves. It is much more concerned with method than courage. However, we can say that courage is the closest to boldness.
Karl Rahner very clearly says that every Christian has a mission, and boldness is the virtue obviously needed for executing that mission. Every Christian has to heed to the Gospel imperative “Be perfect” (Mt. 5:48). For him “boldness” is the only effective countermeasure, a speaking out of season (2Tim.4:2). Jesus himself exercised this virtue of boldness in his public life many times. (E.g. In his dialogue about authority with Caiaphas, the way he cleansed the temple) By boldly refusing to be ashamed on one’s religious beliefs, one can be provocative and he may throw the seeds of faith. For Rahner it is not always unfortunate that boldness will sometimes cause others to exhibit hate or enmity.
In our context:
The virtue of boldness together with creativity helps us get to the truth. It enables us to speak the truth even in conflictual situations. When truth is compromised and when justice is demanded, boldness is needed. When new initiatives in the mission are asked of today’s religious, we need boldness and creativity not only in responding to the calls of the mission but also in the exercise of leadership and in the formation of today’s religious. Hence boldness seems to be an essential and contemporary virtue. This boldness helps us to take initiatives of creativity in our apostolate and in exercising our prophetic role. Our holy founder’s boldness and initiatives in serving the Word of God is very much relevant even in the changed circumstances of Internet and high tech mass media.
Questions for reflections:
Am I bold enough to be a disciple of Jesus in our time? Where does my boldness come from? Fear? Love for truth? Out of your deep relation with God?
Do you allow others to exercise to be bold? Do others feel free in your presence to be themselves?
How creative are you in your ministries? Do you feel comfortable with the old ways of exercising ministries? Are you afraid of new endeavors?
Do you feel threatened when you see new initiatives by others in the community life or in the field of apostolate?
How co-operative are you to the new initiatives by the young religious in the community? Are you prudent enough to correct and lead them without destroying their courage and initiative capacities?
Suggestions for plan of action:
Try to be awakened to the signs of the time. Creativity in apostolate is possible only when you are awakened to the needs of the time. Try to discover the new possibilities we have at our disposal. Stay updated.
Prayer: “Lord, give us the courage to change what is to be changed patience to endure what is to be endured and the wisdom to distinguish between these two”