Monday, August 23, 2010
This day in history, August 23, 1305, William Wallace, the Scottish patriot, was executed by the English for treason.
Many of you saw the movie “Braveheart” , one of my favorite movies, starring Mel Gibson as William Wallace. At the end of the movie, Wallace has been captured, but before he is put to death, the executioner tortures Wallace, trying to get him to recognize the king of England as his rightful king. Despite being “racked” and pulled apart by ropes, Wallace refuses to honor the king and shouts instead, at the climax of the movie, “FREEEDOMMMMM!” just before he is beheaded.
Here’s a guy who is completely bound in shackles, brutally tortured, with no hope of ever escaping and death certain, and yet, in a very powerful way, he is FREE.
That’s a very different idea of freedom than most of us have today. We tend to think that “freedom” is license to do anything we want, to be unencumbered by responsibility or obligation. I am “free” if I can do as I please, when I please, to whomever I please.
But that’s not freedom so much as it is the selfishness of a spoiled child. Ironically, people who live the undisciplined life of a child, giving in to every craving and desire in the name of freedom, end up being slaves to those desires, like a dog reacting to a smell, controlled by habit or instinct, unable to order their lives by delaying gratification or virtue.
True freedom, our faith reminds us, derives from living virtuously, in discipleship to Christ. Yes, that means there are things we must be disciplined about and not do, just like a husband can no longer date other women! But as couples in good marriages will attest, being married to someone who knows you deep down and accepts you is liberating, just as living as Christ desires gives us an internal freedom that far surpasses the supposed "freedom" of living as one pleases.
So on this, the 705th anniversary of William Wallace’s death, let us remember that no matter what pressure we’re under to do something wrong, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves, we have the power to resist evil and choose what is good. If we do so, we will have a kind of inner freedom which liberates us. May we all have the courage and the grace to live as free men and women.