THE PASSERBY by Fr. Roy Cimagala | Freedom is not 'free'

MY father wrote the valedictory address I delivered during my high school graduation more than 50 years ago. I still remember the opening lines, a play of words that continue to intrigue me even up to now. “Freedom is not free,” I said, trying to sound dramatic. “You have to pay for it or it buys you out.”

I indeed agreed to that affirmation at that time, but I did not quite capture the richness of its content until I went through many experiences these past 50 years that simply validated it.

Yes, we have to pay for our freedom to be true freedom. In fact, the price is quite high, because it involves nothing less than giving away all we have to gain it. We have to give away many ‘freedoms’ to gain the real one.

It is indeed a paradoxical thing. To be truly free, we need to be lose our own ideas of freedom that simply are expressions of what our body wants, what the external conditionings would lead us to, etc. True freedom can only come when we manage to unite our mind and will with God’s.

That is when freedom will truly serve the cause of truth, charity, mercy, justice and all the good things proper to us as creatures of God made in his image and likeness and, with his grace, are adopted children of his, meant to share the very life of God.

It is this freedom that would clearly put us on the right track toward our final destination which is heaven. It does not get entangled with the things of this world, though it would know how to use them. It is one that can prefer to enter by the narrow gate if only to reach its ultimate goal, rather than by the wide gate the opens up to the by the many allurements of this world, but eventually would lead to our perdition. (cfr. Mt 7,13-14)

It is a freedom that needs to be constantly guarded and guided to make sure it comes from the right source and goes to the right destination. It has to be properly inspired and motivated, as well as properly oriented. Otherwise, as we have been warned in the gospel, it can simply give an opening to self-indulgence, thus imprisoning us into our own world. (cfr. Gal 5,13)

It is a freedom that requires real and total detachment of self and of the things of this world so that we can have the one that gives everything. Christ articulated this point when he said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33)

We have to be wary of being deluded by the charms of the many forms of false freedom we have in this world. To be able to do this, we have to be ready to follow Christ’s indication to deny ourselves, carry the cross and simply follow him. (cfr. Lk 9,23)

Yes, genuine freedom will always involve sacrifice. A freedom in this world that does not involve sacrifice is simply not true freedom. It would be a freedom that would set us up for inhuman slavery even as it dishes out a lot of perks and privileges for a while. We have to be most discerning of the tricks of false freedom.

What is more, we can somehow distinguish between genuine and fake freedom, since the former is usually done gratuitously, without any strings attached, without any condition, without counting the cost nor expecting any reward. As they say, it is done freely despite the steep cost. It is what identifies us with Christ.

Fake freedom usually has ulterior motives. The intentions are not pure. It usually likes to flaunt itself. It will sooner or later corrupt our soul.