Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 339
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it
.
“…the essential conditions of freedom are social and the simplest answer to the question, “Why cannot I do as I please?” is “Because other people won’t let me.”
 
There is a second corollary of our interdependence which is less widely recognized, and which seems to me the most important of all. No man can compass his own freedom for himself. He must accept it as a free gift from others, and if they will not give it to him he cannot have it. This is the law of freedom. Against it our fear and our pride beat themselves in vain rebellion. If we struggle to achieve our own private freedom we merely frustrate ourselves and destroy its possibility; for we cannot free ourselves from our dependence upon our fellows. That this is not so is one of the great illusions of a sophisticated society. When we profess our faith in freedom we often mean only that we want to be free. What honor is there in such a miserable faith? Which of us would not like to do as he pleases – if only he could escape the consequences? To believe in freedom, in any sense worthy of consideration, is to believe in setting other people free. This is to some extent within our power, and it is the greatest service we can render; even if it must be, at  times, by the sacrifice of our own. In giving freedom to others we have a right  to hope that they in turn will have the grace and gratitude to give us ours. But of this we can have no guarantee. (The Conditions of Freedom John Macmurray, Humanity Books, 1949)
At the beginning of the Atomic Age, following the collapse of Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan and the realization the Earth could no longer abide nationalism for the world had become a single community bound together in war and peace, Professor Macmurray addressed the problem of freedom.
He chided his audience in a lecture, “We flatter ourselves too much when we imagine that we love freedom and strive wholeheartedly towards freedom. On the contrary, there are few things we fear so much…. For to act freely is to take a decision and accept the consequences. The free man is the man who takes responsibility for his own life before God and his fellows. Is it any wonder that, when we are faced with the challenge of freedom, our fear is usually more than a match for its attractiveness; and that we seek for the most part to escape the demand that it makes upon us?”
Macmurray refused to see the human being as an isolated individual. That charming romance was unrealistic; founded in the principles of Enlightened Idealism rather than the real experience of ordinary human life. We’re all in this together and the one who would escape human fellowship betrays his own and our human nature.
Macmurray, who is considered a “religious philosopher” by today’s atheistic standards, pondered Jesus’ teaching about the cross. Christians have puzzled over, discussed and argued with Jesus’ cross since the day he pronounced these words. What does it mean to be free and how can crucifixion represent true and absolute freedom?

We can invite but we cannot persuade the skeptics and the fearful. When they come with us they realize "whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it."

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.