In turn, this response of mine prompted another friend to observe that the word freedom "is a great and ancient word of Christianity, and is not to be abandoned simply because the world has made it petty and twisted it." I agree, which is why I needed to reflect on what I meant by invoking freedom, not glibly, but perhaps a bit too ambiguously.
What is freedom, at least from a Christian perspective? While I would never presume to give a definitive answer, I assert strongly that it is only by looking at Jesus Christ that we have any hope of arriving at a truthful answer. So I turned, as I did yesterday, to the Lenten spiritual exercises given in 2004 by Archbishop Bruno Forte to the papal household, still headed at that time by Bl. Pope John Paul II, published in English as To Follow You, Light of Life. Taking Jesus' three temptations as his starting point, Forte wrote:
Jesus does not seek easy consensus or pander to people's expectations, but rather subverts them. Jesus chooses the Father: with an act of sovereign freedom he prefers obedience to God and abnegation of self over obedience to self, which would imply the rejection of God. He does not succumb to the pull of immediate success; he believes in the Father with indestructible confidence. In the hour of temptation, Jesus reaffirms his freedom from himself, free for the Father and for others, free with the freedom of love
Turning to Jesus' "Yes" to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, Archbishop Forte noted that it is only in Mark's account of this event (8:35) "that the Gospels preserve Jesus' use of of the affectionate Aramaic form Abba in addressing the Father." He then observed that our Lord's "Yes" to the Father "is born of unconditional love: his freedom is the freedom of love, the freedom of one who finds his life by losing it... able to risk everything for love. It is the daring of one who gives all."
Finally, His Excellency attested beautifully to the witness given us by Jesus- "He witnesses to how none are freer than those who are free from their own freedom in the name of a greater love. Free from self, he exists for the Father and for others: he is not concerned with self-promotion, but with promoting God and his Kingdom among men and women."
I believe it is this freedom that Fr. Carrón points to in both his initial response to the news of Pope Benedict's decision to abdicate, "The Incredible Freedom of a Man Taken Hold of By Christ," and in his letter-to-the-editor of La Stampa, "Ratzinger's Cross."
Last night, after finishing this post, I finished watching Éric Rohmer's La Collentionneuse. This movie ends with a remarkable reflection on freedom, on its existential dimension.