The selflessness of true freedom
Each year our nation pauses on the Fourth of July to celebrate freedom. As we gather around picnic tables and barbecues, swimming pools and patios, we bring family and friends together to share meals and stories joyfully, capping things off with the traditional fireworks late in the evening. I wonder, though, how most people would define freedom. If asked, I suspect the average person might say that “freedom is the ability to do what I want, when I want to do it.” Spin that out to its logical conclusion and that kind of unchecked freedom leads to chaos – or worse.
Freedom – taken to an extreme – leads to selfishness, which is the polar opposite of the kind of freedom to which Jesus calls us in the Gospels. The true, transforming, Christ-like freedom we are called to live is not the freedom of selfishness or self-centeredness, but is the freedom of selflessness. That kind of true freedom, challenging as it is to live, invites us to place the needs of others ahead of our own. It encourages us to do with less so that others might have some of what we take for granted. Freedom of that sort seeks reconciliation, aware that we must seek to free one another from the bonds of our unforgiveness. To live in that kind of freedom is to be transformed more and more each day into the likeness of Christ.
Like many Japanese Americans, Cora Uno Fujiwara spent the years of the Second World War in an internment camp. Although she had been born in the United States and was an American citizen, her ancestry – so it was said at the time – was not to be trusted. Her freedom was taken away for reasons beyond her control. Like other interned Japanese Americans I have known, Cora did not let the experience embitter her. Instead, in the midst of captivity, she found freedom in the person of her late husband, Eddie, and in the church she now calls home.
Imagine being held prisoner in your own body as a disease slowly robs you of the freedom to move. Not only does the disease steal away your mobility, it forces you to leave behind the job you love, trading independence for a form of disease-imposed captivity. Jean Haines knows that path too well. Yet as a Victorious Missionary, Jean is able to focus on the many positives that are part of her life. Jean has found freedom where most could never glimpse it.
Maria and Martin Espino work with the people of St. Mary Parish in Adrian to see to the temporal and spiritual needs of the migrant workers who live in area camps from May to November, tending the crops that become the food on our tables. Maria came from Mexico to the United States as a child, working in the fields with her family. As an adult, Maria now helps to create a Christ-centered community in the fields around Adrian.
Christ-like freedom transforms us. It moves us from sadness to joy, from captivity to release, from selfishness to selflessness. And so our journey in FAITH continues.