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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Freedom

Here's a little bit more from Timothy Radcliffe's book, What is the Point of Being a Christian? ........

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A few years ago when I was visiting the Dominicans in the Czech Republic, I spent the night in a small town called Snojmo near the Austrian border. There was the usual meeting with the Dominican Family. There were lots of young families with their noisy offspring, and we feasted on delicious sausages and drank slivovitz. Then we had an open discussion, and the first question was from a young woman who asked how she could transmit the Church's moral teaching to her children, who seemed to be just as resistant as children in Western Europe. I did not know how to answer the question and so I passed it to my companion for that trip, a moral theologian called Wojciech Giertych, professor at the Angelicum University in Rome.

He went to the blackboard and drew a small square in the corner. 'In that square are the commandments. Is that what morality is about?' And everyone cried, 'Of course.' 'No,' he said, 'God is not much interested in commandments.' Then he drew a square which covered all the rest of the board and he said, 'That is freedom. That is what interests God. Your task is to teach your children to be free. That is the teaching of the Gospels, and of St. Thomas Aquinas.' I was so moved by this that I decided immediately that if I ever had a sabbatical I would study Thomas's moral theology, which had somehow got skipped in my patchy theological studies in the chaotic late 1960s ........

Kant maintained that freedom cannot be explained, only defended. We cannot offer an explanation of Christian freedom, but we can look at it in action, at the Last Supper. This sign of hope is the freest of all acts. The Last Supper was a Passover meal. It was the feast of Israel's liberation from slavery in Egypt. Jesus reclines with his disciples at the table, with the beloved disciple resting on his breast. This was a sign of their freedom. The Jewish tradition maintained that 'whereas the slaves eat standing, here [at the Passover] people should recline when they eat, to signify that they have gone out of bondage to liberty'. That night Jesus began a new Passover into the unimaginable freedom of God.

That final meal offers us successive steps into an ever deeper freedom. First of all we shall look at the betrayal of Jesus, his loss of freedom. Then we shall reflect briefly on how Jesus transcends victimhood. Then there is his freedom of choice, which is the ordinary and basic freedom of human beings. But the Last Supper invites us to deeper freedoms, the freedom of spontaneity, and ultimately the freedom of giving away our lives.

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2 Comments:

Blogger cowboyangel said...

Interesting post, Crystal. Goes well with the one on obedience and creativity.

And I learned what "slivovitz" was: plum brandy. :-)

9:10 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for that about slivovitz - I was wondering :)

2:52 PM  

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