“Fidelity to choice is the condition for freedom.” This sounds restrictive and confining: sticking with a choice made years ago. Is that reasonable? Is it desirable? Is it possible?
Many of us think otherwise of freedom. We regard it as the power to break free of constraints, to remake the boundaries which we adopted, perhaps years ago, when “things were different”. An example would be the practice of gerrymandering by legislative bodies, such as our Congress, consisting of remaking the geographical political boundaries of a state to better conform the size of a voting unit with the numbers of voters within that unit, so as to more or less equalize the numbers of the voting population of each unit within any given state. Fidelity to an earlier decision to enact certain geographical voting blocks, designed to safeguard the impact of one’s freedom to influence the vote, can eventually impede freedom if more and more voters move into that voting block, thereby watering down the influence of my freedom through voting. However, this diminishment of freedom might justify departing from the original boundaries of the voting unit, and justify a change—in the name of freedom. Obviously, as at times happens, gerrymandering can be manipulated to unduly diminish the impact of one’s voting freedom, rather than protect it. But generally fidelity to choice is the condition for freedom. To waffle on such fidelity is to diminish freedom.
But fidelity to the exercise of one’s free choice can lead to bizarre situations. A devout religious believer, remaining steadfast in his/her religious beliefs, can be persecuted for this, and, in despotic governments, imprisoned for fidelity to one’s religious convictions. The exercise of religious freedom in this case may seem to result in the loss of freedom in another dimension. But would not reneging on one’s fidelity to a religious choice, in an effort to preserve one’s political freedom, actually undercut whatever freedom one tried to achieve in this way? Or is not fidelity to religious convictions the only way to preserve and actually enhance one’s freedom in the fullest sense, despite an apparent loss of freedom? There have been some beautiful testimonials by those imprisoned for their fidelity to religious (or political) choices, testifying to their experiencing a new dimension of freedom enjoyed within prison despite confinement there. On the other hand, would one truly experience freedom by backing off a religious commitment?
Or fidelity to a commitment made to another person. This is one of the most common forms of fidelity to a bonding that one has freely entered. Marriage, of course, comes to mind, but there are a variety of other kinds of personal commitments that punctuate our lives. Sometimes these occur in the family, as when a parent spontaneously promises a child an outing or a special treat. Or a neighbor freely promising to return a piece of equipment borrowed for some task. Interestingly, these instances of freedom generate the context of an obligation to fidelity: fidelity to return what one has received. In these instances, freedom generates obligation; it does not lay the groundwork exemption from obligation. It is difficult to think of any situation one has freely entered that does not, somewhere along the line, make demands on one receiving a favor. To engage another person in any enterprise whatever, regardless of the mention of obligation, factually generates obligation somewhere along the line. Even a simple “Good Morning” elicits a “Good Morning” in return. Fidelity to choices evident in personal exchanges generates its own set of commitments. The choice operative at the heart of freedom generates obligation.
Gerrymandering at its best seeks to expand freedom for more persons but it puts others under constraints, not to be avoided. Religious convictions express one’s freedom before God, but this freedom is not enhanced by curtailing it so as to avoid imprisonment through denying one’s religious convictions. Even living (presumably freely) with myself exacts commitments to myself which cannot be disregarded without damage to that freedom. Personal interactions beget implicit promises, which can’t be avoided by dismissing them lightly. Fidelity to choice (an expression of freedom) is the condition for freedom. Freedom begets its own set of rules.
To appease the Father
To demonstrate Jesus’ love and obedience
As renunciation of the sensual
Sunday is Palm Sunday, the story of the death of Jesus on the cross. I cannot get beyond the question of “Why the Cross?”.
Jesus said many times: “The kingdom of God (heaven) is within.” This suggests to me that the kingdom was present then and is present now. When attempting to teach us of Our Father’s love for us, He told the parable of the prodigal son showing God’s unconditional love, revealed at the time and present before the crucifixion. Can I conclude that atonement was possible? Jesus seems for me to be also appealing to the collective conscious of mankind. Which is in my way of thinking what He is referring to when He addresses Himself as the Son of Man.
In trying to explain the cross and it’s meaning to the apostles shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus says: “Whoever serves me must follow me and where I am, there also will my servant be…I am troubled now yet what should I say, Father save me from this hour? But it’s was for this purpose that I came.” (JN 20 26-27)
With this reasoning I conclude that one of the motives He went to the cross is to provide an example for each of us to follow. As He was given a cross so is each of us given our cross to bear. If you will follow His example you will pick up your cross daily and follow. The way I like to say it, embrace life, all of life, even your cross.
When we avoid or deny the cross we are given we are rejecting an important part of our life and consequently we will not learn all of life’s lessons and experience it’s resurrections.
Historically in trying to understand the cross, people have thrown the idea of sin into the mind-set and the story of redemption. Jesus defeated sin. Sin does not have to be part of the issue in your personal story of redemption. Mistake yes, we all make mistakes. Learn mistake’s lesson, correct them, and move on.
I believe the Hebrew Scriptures equivalent to pick up your cross daily and follow me is: “I put before you life and death, choose life.” (DT 30:19) The life put before you could look like death and paradoxically is life and life more fully which Jesus tells us is one of the lessons He came to earth to teach us.
Checking in with A Higher Authority Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee: should they ever seriously disagree about seasonal changes, they can always revert to the suggestion of Jesus, above,to eventually consult a higher authority, such as THE FARMERS ALMANAC.
Dorothy Day I’ll never forget my first visit to that house. I was in the insurance business at the time and at the suggestion of John Carney who was directing the Passionist Volunteer program, I went there
We deal with differences of opinion, on a variety of issues, practically daily. Whether it’s newscasters on weather stations, or sports announcers/writers for athletic teams, or politicians representing different parties, we encounter varying positions.
Sometimes helps are available for coping with disagreements. It is said of President Kennedy that when he ate breakfast, he read two newspapers usually taking divergent views on issues, such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, often splitting the difference in an effort to come closer to the best understanding achievable. At other times, a certain accommodation is allowed for geographical reasons, such as the difference of opinion regarding baseball teams, as it plays out in the city of Chicago, for example, with the preference of north-siders for the Cubs and of south-siders for the White Sox being tolerated for such regional variations. And then the perennial comparison of the sexes, as to who is the smarter, the more sympathetic, the more religious, the more frugal, etc., goes on endlessly.
A more serious difference of opinion, however, occurs periodically, as in the groundhog family, specifically, its protocol for formulating a weather forecast, through the services of such experts as the well-known Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania, and the lesser known General Beauregard Lee of Georgia. They both come out of their burrows, where they have hibernated, in early February and, on the basis of their skill in predicting weather trends, forecast the date of spring’s arrival for that year. Frequently, they agree, though not always so, since regional factors can be identified to explain their differences.
Though variations of opinion can often be explained by the convictions of those holding them, they can also be traced to the opaqueness of the issue under discussion. In addition, the adroitness of the discussants of an issue also enters the picture. Sincere efforts to understand another’s position, on the part of all those involved, often result in a different outcome from that originally held by each of the discussants.
At the recent extraordinary synod of bishops, in Rome, there was significant difference of opinion among them about relaxing the traditional position of the church, disallowing divorced and remarried (without an annulment) Catholics from receiving the eucharist. At the upcoming ordinary synod of bishops, this conversation will be vetted again, and it will be interesting to see whether any of the bishops have, in the interlude, changed their positions.
The early church also saw its share of disagreements among the church leadership of that era. Peter and Paul disagreed, at least in practice, over the requirement of circumcision for those entering the church from the gentile world, since, up to that time, all the early Christians were converts from Judaism. In a less contentious matter, at least for that early period of time, the issue of slavery, Paul offered his opinion to Philemon about Onesimus, the former’s escaped slave, now that both of them were Christian. While Paul had Onesimus return to his master, he sought to ameliorate the latter’s situation. We don’t know the outcome of this effort at softening a contentious situation. And Jesus Himself had some very clear ideas about the procedure to follow when disagreements occur between people, through a series of steps, concluding with a final appeal to the church(Mt. 18.15, ff.).
The art of compromise often rescues participants locked in a dispute. Compromise presumes give and take on the part of all involved in a disagreement. It usually doesn’t work when just one of the participants compromises, since that seems equivalent to “giving in”. Successful labor contract arrangements are usually reached by way of compromise, as in negotiations between owners and players of a baseball franchise. Each participant gives a little, and gains a little. The inability or refusal to compromise is seldom admirable unless a matter of clairvoyant principle is at stake, just as is the tendency of one party, as in a marriage, to always compromise.
Back to to evenPunxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee: should they ever seriously disagree about seasonal changes, they can always revert to the suggestion of Jesus, above,to eventually consult a higher authority, such as THE FARMERS ALMANAC.
…I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more. (Jer 31:33-34)
Jeremiah uttered this great oracle of the “New Covenant” sometimes called “The Gospel before the Gospel”. This passage contains his most sublime teaching and is a landmark in the study of the Hebrew Scriptures. (New American Bible)
The passage was written in about 600 B.C. Now I will try to rewrite it in it’s most concise way: Love and know that there are no mistakes, no such thing as failure only choice and feedback, listen, learn and respond to life’s lessons.
I live right down the street from one of the Catholic Worker Houses here in Chicago. I pass it often on my way to lunch with the Golden Diners at the local Presbyterian Church.
I’ll never forget my first visit to that house. I was in the insurance business at the time and at the suggestion of John Carney who was directing the Passionist Volunteer program, I went there for dinner. He invited me and said I should be there at 6:00 pm. I warned him that I had a busy schedule that day and asked him to please not wait for me if I was late. He said that’d be fine.
Just before 6:00 pm I drove up in my new Cadillac Seville, parking it right in front of the house. There were lots of people mulling around on the front porch and lawn of the house. I asked the first person I met, for John and he directed me in the house where I would be able to find him. I did find him, not getting ready to sit down for dinner as I suspected, but chatting away with a group gathered in the living room. I joined the group and about a half hour later was beginning to think I misunderstood John—he didn’t mean dinner—he just meant for me to come and get to know the people at the Catholic Worker House. About 7:00 pm someone came into the living room and announced that dinner was ready and directed us not to the dining room, but to a line that was forming on the porch outside. We got in line and eventually did get to the dining room whose walls were lined with tables filled with food. Only then did I realize I was participating in a soup kitchen for the poor. I filled my plate and joined John back on the couch in the living room. I asked John where they got all that food and he replied: “Dumpstering!” I wasn’t sure I heard correctly so I quizzed further, “Where?” John explained that a group from the house goes dumpster diving in the neighborhood and ends up with this cornucopia of food that is offered to the poor or anyone who shows up once a week.
At the suggestion of another good Passionist friend, Fr. Rian Clancy, I had read Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness—but experiencing the Catholic Worker House that evening, first hand involved me in her life like no book ever could. Here were people who were living the gospel. They were preaching without any words. Thanks Dorothy Day for your marvelous example of living the gospel.