Freedom and responsibility
THESE are inseparable twins, like the two sides of a coin. One cannot be without the other. To be truly free, one has to be responsible. And to be truly responsible, one has to be free.
And the more freedom one enjoys, the more responsibility he should also exercise. And the new forms of freedom, especially brought about now by our new technologies, should also be matched by new forms of responsibility. We have to be more sensitive to this issue. But we have to know what is involved in this unbreakable relationship between freedom and responsibility. This is now a very challenging task, since many people today are having all sorts of ideas about what freedom is. And regarding responsibility, hardly any attention is given to it, especially among the young.
Very often, what we see is a kind of freedom that is simply at the mercy of one’s likes and dislikes, or one’s moods and physical, emotional and psychological condition, or the social, political or cultural trends around, or merely man-made ideologies. We have to reiterate to everyone, in season and out of season, the true nature and purpose of freedom and why it goes always with responsibility. We cannot deny that there are now many forms of what may be deemed as fake freedom and pseudo-responsibility.
First, we need to understand that our freedom is not just something that we generate ourselves. We have not created freedom. It is given to us by our Creator who is definitely other than ourselves. And it is subject to a law that is also given to it by our Creator. We are never its lawgiver.
With that in mind, we can readily understand why it is said in the gospel that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Christ echoed the same idea when he said: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8,31)
In short, God is the source of our freedom and the sense of responsibility that corresponds to that freedom. Not only is he the source. He is also its pattern, as personified in Christ and put into effect in the Holy Spirit. He is also its purpose.
Freedom is not just about the ability to do what we want to do. Rather it is the power to do what we ought to do, as inscribed in the will of God. It is this character of its “ought-ness” that gives rise to the sense of responsibility that should always accompany the exercise of true freedom.
If we understand this, we will obviously realize how important it is to know God’s will and ways, as expressed and shown in the gospel, and the many other instrumentalities in the Church that are meant to explain and transmit the living word of God. May we then realize and take to heart the duty to read and meditate on the gospel and on the word of God, wherever it is found! We have to encourage everyone, especially those close to us, to develop the habit of gospel-reading and of continually studying the doctrine of our faith, steadily incarnating the truths of our faith in our lives.
Of special and urgent interest today are the new forms of freedom that we are afforded by the new technologies, and how these new forms should be matched by new ways with which our responsibility should be exercised. Otherwise, we cannot avoid from getting into the very deceiving ways of fake freedom and pseudo-responsibility.