Liberty, Not Autonomy
17 November 2017
No, I am not splitting hairs. These two words are really quite different.
Liberty is from the Latin and means freedom, especially from captivity and slavery.
Autonomy is from the Greek and means “self law”. The reference point is me, not someone or something else.
The Gospel today appears to be quite unreasonable, until we realise that Jesus is trying to lead us to liberty, away from autonomy.
Either our daily activities will lead to liberty or autonomy. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground here. The vast array of human endeavour mentioned in this Gospel – eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building, working, sleeping – will either be a means or an end for us.
Our life and all that we do can be a means to God. That is, we see it as coming from God and leading to him. And so we give thanks to God for all that we have and are. This is liberty.
Our life and all that we do can be an end in itself. That is, we see it all as coming from us and leading to us. It all revolves around us. This is autonomy.
The Gospel makes perfect sense:
I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left (Luke 17: 34-35).
But it makes more than sense, don’t you think?
The joy of being taken by Christ! Oh! What a joy, what a moment, what an encounter!
It will all have been worthwhile.