A Pilgrim's Catechism
The Occasional Thoughts of a 21st-Century Roman Catholic on Journey
Towards the Reign of God
Peter von Cornelius: Joseph Recognizes his Brothers, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1816-17
How does being responsible lead to freedom?
By definition a human situation is a condition of time and place in which we find ourselves, not necessarily of our making, even in part. Every situation has its limitations. Many are very oppressive. A young mother with two small children has just lost her husband killed in a war in a foreign land. A person with family obligations has been left a paraplegic by an automobile accident. A youth is diagnosed with a brain tumor with the prognosis of an early and very painful death.
A person may cry out, “God, why me? What have I done to deserve this? Why have you allowed this to happen?”
God does not put us into situations. Rather he calls us out of them. God did not sell Joseph into slavery but, empowering Joseph with life, called him out of that slavery to be a blessing for a multitude including his brothers who had injured him.
Being responsible in any situation does not mean being answerable for it. Whether or not we have created a situation, it is a condition in which we just find ourselves. Every situation calls for a reaction. Being responsible is to ask what one must do now that this situation with its limitations and even oppressiveness may be turned into a blessing for ourselves and for others. Being responsible is accepting the offer of God’s life and power in the moment to transform the situation from liability into blessing.
Irresponsibility in any situation inevitably leads to spiritual paralysis, indeed continued slavery to the situation; responsibility on the other hands enables us to rise above the limits of the situation and leads to freedom for ourselves in the service of others.