As we celebrate Freedom Day in SA on 27 April it is good to spend a little time reflecting on the meaning of freedom.   Are we free to be, or just free to see?  Are we free to do, are we free from or free for?   Freedom is a very complex issue with many different facets.  With the MARFAM April theme – God and Family, we can consider freedom from a spiritual perspective just as it applies too to life in general. Theologically we can say freedom is an attribute of God, it is what makes God God and makes God all powerful.  For us freedom is God’s gift, a gift of being created in God’s image and having free will.  This is designed for us as human beings to be able to give glory to God.  Which is the ideal, but our abuse of this freedom is sin.  

One of the documents of the 2nd Vatican Council in 1965 DIGNITATIS HUMANAE is on religious liberty and focuses on the human freedom and right to practice our own religion in society, whatever religion it is.  This freedom is part of various human rights constitutions and declarations including ours in South Africa but not all countries in the world give their citizens that right.  Many persecutions over time, and right up to today have been around this right.  Church teaching states, “Religious freedom is the cornerstone of a society that promotes human dignity.  It is a fundamental human right, for it follows on the duty of all people to seek the truth about God.” 

A very recent Church document DIGNITATIS INFINITA addresses the dignity of human beings once again, as created in the image of God. It does so in the modern context of today with its particular human and social concerns, some of which are around sexuality and right to life issues.  

From a human perspective we’re inclined to think that freedom is a right and allows us to do as we please with what we have and who we are.  That is one aspect but it is limiting in the sense that my freedom does affect the freedom and rights of others and my freedom could even be against my own dignity.  

There are many ways of looking at freedom. A helpful way is recognizing the two aspects  freedom from and freedom for.    There is the right of freedom from coercion, not being forced to marry or be forced into slavery or sexual acts.  Freedom for concerns having the capacity and ability to do good, to love, to give, care for, study, work  and promote the common good.  

 How does freedom apply in a family? From the moment of birth there are elements of freedom, from the restriction of the mother’s womb,  but yet always a tie, a link, a commitment that binds us to another person or thing.  Freedom to take the small steps in becoming independent all throughout childhood are necessary and beneficial for healthy growth and development.  That would be seen as authoritative parenting whereas preventing or tightly controlling children’s development  is being authoritarian and restricts their freedom.  On one level parents have the freedom and right, even an obligation, to pass on their religious beliefs and values to their children.  Nowadays there is another belief that says children should make up their own minds on this and other issues. Should they be allowed to choose to steal, take drugs or watch pornography because they have the freedom to do so?     Clearly there needs to be a balance, a norm for what is acceptable as well as an obligation to seek the truth, and apply one’s conscience..

Do all creatures have freedom?   That is an existential question on a spiritual level, but has life implications too. Do they have rights of their own or only as related to us?.  Does my dog have freedom to run wild, fight and attack others or mess on the pavement, silly things but ones that can be issues in community living?   Do wild animals have the freedom to roam where they will, as has traditionally been their instinct and reality?  If, because their traditional habitats and paths have been destroyed or curtailed by land development, elephants break out in search of food and water and attack villagers, are they responsible or guilty?   Is freedom relative?

When Jesus said,   “the truth will  make you free,” John 8:31-47.    he was speaking to his disciples who believed and followed him. Paul, to the Romans,  writes, “creation itself will be set free from bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.  The whole of creation has been groaning in travail together until now.”  Romans 8:21-22.  

Freedom is described in dictionaries as being able to do whatever you want without restrictions. Oh dear, where will that take us, in our world today? Endless wars because of greed, power, “might is right”, or might gives a right?   Let us hope and pray that in our era with so much turmoil and conflict freedom will be for doing good and for creating peace.   Freedom is for ruling a country with justice, honesty and integrity.  In our upcoming elections dare we say, “we will overcome” using the words of a well-known freedom song. TR  


April 24.  Mrs Potgieter continued to reflect, “What is Jesus advocating for? True freedom, and achieving that. is part of the message of the Kingdom of Jesus. I loved the description we used in our catechism classes; a kingdom of love, justice, truth, peace and freedom.  St Francis and Pope Francis also promote humility and poverty.  That is more concrete and more complicated.  Not owning anything at all is a special vocation for some, but the cry of the poor is for everyone. Not having enough to eat is certainly not a good thing, but the attitude of greed and wanting more and more does not make us content with life or give us true freedom.”  “Talk about election and reflection.  This is a time when we really need to challenge our leaders’ motives.”        

Reflect, share, pray. Scripture:   At that time Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. The Father who sent me has himself given me the commandment what to say.  John  12:44-50.  Pope Francis:  A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment.  To be serenely present to each reality, however small, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment.   Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.  LS 222. 96   Action. Share and pray, for a greater appreciation of the values of the kingdom in our politicians including humility and poverty which is also the cry of the poor.