A busy shopping street in London, Berlin, New York or any other big city can show us how much freedom in fact we have. Chains of similar looking departments stores offer us a similar assortment of similar artefacts. 'Globalisation', some say, and tut. 'We are spoiled for choice' say others and they are content.
Personal liberty or the possibility of making a choice against the popular opinion are among the most valued idols of our modern western society. We build our lives in the comfort zone of the relatively stable political systems of our countries and believe that we are free. It is only that nobody seems to question what kind of freedom it is that we have and whether it is freedom at all.
Today, for the first time in Holy Week, the Passion of Christ is read out during our liturgy. It touches us to the bone. It is impossible to shut our ears to the reading of the Passion, or to attempt to acquire a 'scientific distance' while Christ's death is proclaimed by the reader, because it always resonates with strong emotions echoed by an avalanche of personal questions.
The Passion of Christ challenges my understanding of freedom.
Have I really discovered what real freedom is about?
Am I able to choose God, the Goodness itself above other goods?
Am I able to choose God and stand and defend my choice or do I proclaim him king one day only to shout the following day that I want him crucified?
The Passion of Christ brutally forces me to examine my motivations. Why am I a follower of Christ? Just as the bronze serpent raised by Moses in the desert became an outrageous but salutary challenge for the image-hating Israelites, so the dead body of Christ raised on the cross constantly challenges my dormant disbelief that God's love for me is absolutely limitless. The only barrier that I can set up on its way is that I do not choose to accept it. Am I a free person if I cannot choose love?
What motivates me if, like Peter, I deny it? Is it the crowd, the fear of the crowd or the non-existent popular opinion to which I have conveniently delegated the judgment that can only be mine?
Jesus willingly and freely chose a brutal and humiliating death so that I may live.
What a paradox! Can I not willingly and freely choose the good and loving God so that I may live?