One of the consequences of such a dramatic change in routine is a renewed focus on freedom and responsibility. Though routine is itself a choice and something for which we are ultimately accountable, it can put freedom in the shadows, hiding responsibility. However, when one has to create a new routine, all this comes out into the open.
In fact, openness is not a bad metaphor for considering freedom. Typically, analyses of freedom divide into two: “freedom from” and “freedom to”. They are obviously related: in some cases (for example, marriage) one must be free from A in order to be free for B. However, even though “freedom from” might be chronologically prior, “freedom for” is logically prior. It makes no sense to be free from everything. This is where openness as an image works.
One might prepare an open space, but in the end one must populate it. Likewise, the English writer, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” That is: “freedom from” must always be for the purposes of “freedom for”. In an open and tolerant society, this is the tricky balance to find: laws that protect an individual’s “freedom from” without losing sight of the more fundamental “freedom for”.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday on which the Church asks us to pray for and, if we are in position to, consider vocations, especially to religious and consecrated life. Such decisions, like that to get married, must be free precisely because they are completely personal. They are an example of the ultimate “freedom for”; our whole selves become for something, or, more usually, for someone.
Jesus mentions going by the narrow way, and in today’s Gospel states that he is the gateway (as well as being the good shepherd). Both these images make sense in relation to “freedom for”. Whenever we choose something, we necessarily forego much else. The path narrows. There is only one gate.
However, the exercise of freedom is the only true way forward. Anything else is simply a lack of commitment, stalling the engine of our lives. So, let’s pray for all those seeking such a commitment, all those who have already made such a commitment, and for our community in general. Let’s be clear as to how our freedom works. It is only the truth that sets us free.