“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” [John 21:15] was the question asked by Jesus to Simon Peter. The repetition of this question a third time put Simon Peter in a turmoil. Was this question an invitation to love? Or perhaps a compulsion to be under someone’s bondage? In Jewish tradition a disciple ought to serve his master [Rabbi] and follow him in all circumstances, no matter what the situation was. This perhaps made the followers to think alike and act like their masters. In Jesus’s case the disciples were not merely followers, but friends. Jesus loved them as his own. He was never a taskmaster in guiding them. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead I call you friends” [John 15:15]. This deep love however stimulated Jesus to wash their feet at the last supper. Hence this love is mutual. It flowed out of freedom from the heart.
Freedom and love perhaps are important elements in each person’s life. They are like the two wings of a bird, one always needs and upholds the other. Our life seems smooth and meaningful when we love and are being loved by others. Freedom is like icing on a cake of love. It makes love more realistic than superficial. Love is more fundamental in correspondence with freedom. Without them we would be somehow less than human.
Freedom of love is more reflective and deep. The word ‘Love’ perhaps has been variedly used by many in many a sense. When someone says I love ice cream, he does not intend to say that he is in love with ice-cream. This is nevertheless an expression of desire for something. It only means to utilise something as far as it gives pleasure to self. There is no give and take, no mutual sharing. The love that Jesus shows us is the love that flows from the heart out of freedom. It involves sacrifice and other-centeredness. Mother Teresa said, “Give until it hurts.” She as a person, I feel, had experienced a love from Christ that made her give everything of her to others. When one experiences real love that flows from freedom, one cannot but love in return.
Freedom and love do not rule out each other, but they presuppose each other. The contemplation to obtain love proposed by St. Ignatius at the end of the Spiritual Exercises is given great importance during the retreat. This exercise has been utilised as an effective tool to bring out a genuine aspect of love in every Jesuit’s life. It has further helped many to experience the real love that Christ showed us from the cross. Thus we understand that love is an essential part of every one’s life; it is perhaps the life blood of every human being. Understanding of this love in the light of freedom would help a person to blossom as a free individual.
“Let the freedom of light be ablaze with the candle of love, and may it spread the message of Christ through the corners of the world.”
By Sch. Ashwil Lobo SJ