Tuesday, January 19, 2021
In his newest book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, Pope Francis points out that we need both personal liberation and liberation from unjust and harmful systems. Unfortunately, many people have been taught that salvation is merely an individual escape plan for the next world, which has not produced many liberated people or healthy systems. He writes:
In every personal “Covid,” so to speak, in every “stoppage,” what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected. 
We all think we are freely and consciously making our own choices when, in my experience, most people live most of their lives unconsciously! Before transformation, we are basically sleepwalking, going through the motions on the surface of life, which is why spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha tell us to “wake up.” When our ego or small self is in charge, we are not free; we are being ordered about by our preferences, our likes and dislikes. Is it really liberating to believe the world revolves around us or conversely, that we must hold it all together?
As we engage in contemplative prayer and allow God to transform us through great love and great suffering, we are reminded of our inherent connectedness. We are liberated from thinking of ourselves as somehow separate from everyone and everything else, including God.
After an authentic God encounter, everything else is relativized. There is only one Absolute and it is God, not us or our culture. Both are de-centered. Through prayer we find God both deep within us and all around us. We know our True Self is part of God and lives in God. We are no longer limited by our culturally conditioned reactions but have access to a greater Source of love and ultimate freedom.
Pope Francis recognizes this freedom in the healthcare professionals who have risked their lives and worked so hard for so many months:
[Healthcare workers] are the saints next door, who have awoken something important in our hearts, making credible once more what we desire to instill by our preaching.
They are the antibodies to the virus of indifference. They remind us that our lives are a gift and we grow by giving of ourselves: not preserving ourselves but losing ourselves in service. 
There is no authentic freedom if we do not also consider the rights and well-being of others. As Pope Francis reflects:
Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate. . . . 
The transformed person finds freedom in the service of Life and Love. Your life is not about you. You are about life!
 Pope Francis, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (Simon & Schuster: 2020), 36.
 Pope Francis, 13.
 Pope Francis, 27.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Scripture as Liberation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download.
Story from Our Community:
When I entered my fifth rehab for addiction and alcoholism, I remember sitting at meetings wondering silently: Who am I? and What am I to do now? I was introduced to Richard Rohr, began to support CAC, and my sobriety led me to contemplate while awake. I have learned that I do not change my life, so much as I cooperate with Providence in allowing my life to be directed and changed. I have momentary breakthroughs. Today I am sober, and sober-minded, and am learning to ‘grow-up.’ I did not, nor will I get back, all that I have lost. In the end, it is rubbish. It is passing, as am I. But God remains. —Michael G.