Friday, April 18, 2014

“On attaining the freedom we truly desire”

Like recovering addicts today Venerable Matt Talbot did not attain the freedom he sought until he turned his life over to the care of God.

 By Fr. Alex Rebello
17 April, 2014

Addictions, like attachments assume several forms. They are not restricted to alcohol, drugs or sex alone. We can be addicted to power, popularity, places, positions and persons as well. Addictions teach us so many important lessons; but most of all, they confront us with our utter helplessness. They mirror to our misery. That can be both so self-revealing and chastening too. The humble confession of our own inability to cope with them by ourselves alone is the absolutely necessary pre-requisite if we are to overcome them and attain the freedom we desire.

But it takes a lot of honesty and humility to admit that we are helpless. We like to be on the winning side. We like to feel strong and self-sufficient. It hurts our pride to say that we are weak and cannot manage the mess into which we have fallen. It deflates our bloated ego to acknowledge that we need help. We try our very best to save ourselves and we struggle painfully without making any progress. In fact, the more we strive to rise above the tide of our addictions and attachments, the more we seem to slip and sink!

Salvation begins when we allow God to enter our lives, when we surrender our addictions and attachments to Him, when we admit our utter helplessness and hopelessness and humbly ask His help. We must stop trying to be our own saviours for that would be as futile as trying to hang on ourselves. The real breakthrough comes when God takes over, when we hand over to Him the messed up tangle of our lives and allow Him with consummate compassion and persevering patience to untie all those tangled knots and set loose our life threads once more!

There is at times a misplaced emphasis on ‘will power’. No one denies the fact that God needs our co-operation and will not save us against our will. Centuries ago, Augustine had remarked: He who created you without you, will not save you without you!” We need the will to do what lies in our power or powerlessness, to collaborate with God’s grace. But more than mere will power we need His power. We might battle and kick against the goad and still find ourselves shackled like slaves. When we feel despondent, discouraged and defeated by our own powerlessness in the face of so many addictions, we need to listen to and reflect on those comforting and consoling words of the Lord to St. Paul: “My grace is enough for you:  for power is at full stretch in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Total surrender to the Lord of power brings not only serenity and security but also stamina and strength.

Ordained in 1968, Fr. Alex Rebello holds a Baccalaureate in education, a Master`s in History and Theology and a Doctorate in Spirituality from the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome. He was deputed to the Pontifical Council for Culture at the Vatican where he served for a decade. He has travelled extensively abroad guiding retreats and conducting seminars on prayer and spirituality. He is presently on loan from the Archdiocese of Mumbai as a missionary to the Diocese of Wrexham in Wales, U.K. His articles are also available on