By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
The “Going Deeper” page will explore interior freedom based on a book authored by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. Published in 2002, “Interior Freedom” has quickly become a modern classic in spiritual reading. Philippe, a French priest in the Community of the Beatitudes, charts an accessible path to reach and live true freedom. In the next eight months, a different Maronite parishioner will offer a reflection on one of the chapters. You are encouraged to purchase a copy and follow along in this spiritual discussion (see below).
Often when we think of freedom, we think of getting whatever we want, when and as we want -- no constraints. I remember hearing the phrase, “freedom isn’t free” after 9/11 while I was missioned in New York City. There was a lot of talk about freedom in the days and months following the tragic terrorist attacks, and it caused me to reflect. Patriotism was at a high and so was a renewed appreciation for the men and women in the military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
We all desire freedom and are indeed created for true freedom. However, our culture more secularized than in previous years, is offering us a mistaken idea of freedom. The first chapter of Phillipe’s book explores the subject of freedom and acceptance. He bases the book on the spiritual truth that freedom is found at the source – God. The path to God is guided by our living out the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
Phillipe says, “We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is not happiness without love, and no love without freedom.” (pg. 13) Therefore, freedom is a gift from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it gives value to love. It is not a freedom from someone or something but a freedom for a greater good, for someone --God.
If our freedom is based on being unconstrained and pushing ahead with our bucket list, then we are mistaken and our loves become enslavements that take many forms (i.e. selfishness, addictions, bad relationships, etc.). This is a false idea of freedom and it derails our ability to choose authentic love, to pursue what is best for us. With freedom comes responsibility not license. This great dignity God gives to us needs to be cultivated and guided by virtue so we can choose responsibly. Our freedom is at the service of seeking the good for ourselves and others. This is love and it leads to true happiness.
“Another fundamental mistake about freedom is to make it into something external, depending on circumstances, and not something primarily internal,” writes Phillipe (pg. 15). Our Lord, the Mother of God and the saints are the role models we need here. He adds “People who haven’t learned how to love will always feel like victims; they will feel restricted wherever they are. But people who love never feel restricted.” (pg. 21) Phillipe sites St. Therese of Lisieux as the one who taught him that “our inability to love comes most often from our lack of faith, and our lack of hope.” (pg. 21)
Our depth of living these virtues is the sure path to happiness because they help us to develop true interior freedom. A person who is truly free will flourish in spite of obstacles and even because of them. Happiness is theirs. Interior freedom is made possible because Our Lord paid the ultimate price.
In our discipleship as a redeemed Christian, we are challenged to reject false freedom for authentic interior freedom. Our happiness will grow in proportion to the kind of person we have become in living out faith, hope, and charity. The following chapters of this book unfold the living out of these virtues which set us free.
Prayer: Dear God, may I use my freedom to seek and choose the good, the true and the beautiful.
(Interior Freedom, Fr. Jacques Philippe, Scepter Publishing, 2007. Available as a Kindle or paper copy via Amazon)