Saturday, 22 May 2010

Chains of Freedom

Being called by God to be a follower of Christ can sometimes seem very daunting. It seems to entail being chained to the commandments of Christ 'to love one another as I have loved you' (John 13:34), chained to the demands expected of a follower 'to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me' (Mark 8:34), even chained to the will of God that seems to go against how we want or desire to live our precious lives.

Gospel reading: John 21:20-25
    Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’
    This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.
    There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.

Each time I am called by God either towards a particular vocation, a particular ministry, a particular person, or even just a small particular task, initially it almost seems as if I am being picked out by God from among so many around me, to be clamped with chains round my wrist, so that I may be pulled out and tasked to do God's bidding like a victimising master picking on his slave for fun and pleasure. It is during these moments that I seem to exclaim in Peter's words 'what about him, Lord?' pointing to so many people out there who seem more worthy and capable to be 'picked on'.

First reading: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.

    After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’
    Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

Yet we see how even though St Paul was imprisoned and chained in Rome through no fault or choice of his, it was 'on account of the hope of Israel that' he chose to 'wear this chain’. Not only that, throughout the time that he was chained, 'he welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.'

Upon further reflection, I realise that whenever God calls me to follow His will, I am not really being chained to His whims and fancies. In fact, God is really coming to me to set me free from the worldly chains that bind me to earthly pleasures, bind me to my own desires, dreams, plans and will that spring from my own limited and misguided perception of what is really good for me. Only when I freely and willingly accept His calling do I allow God to set me free so that I may truly live out His perfect will for me 'with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone' and especially without hindrance from my own self.

As I now slowly learn to accept His will and plan for me, I also slowly experience the freedom of being led by God to the fullness of His love and peace, through my deep and personal encounters of Christ, and through the way God uses me in 'proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ' in my everyday life.

It is in this light that I slowly stop looking around me and asking 'what about him, Lord?', for I have realised that it no longer matters to me why I seem to be the only one called, or why someone else isn't called, for God calls each one of us differently and for different paths, but ultimately God personally comes to each one of us to set us free from our earthly chains. And because of this, all that really matters to me is that I be 'chained' to His perfect love and will, to be bound by His mercy and greatness, and to live the life God wills for me with complete freedom.

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