The concept of freedom is perhaps, like "love", one of the ideas most affected by philosophical pluralism. Despite the varied and sometimes even divergent explanations of it, one can trace at least three basic notions: (a) self-possession, or the capacity of the subject to invest oneself in a given project; (b) self-definition, or the power of the subject to realize his/her possibilities, and (c) the capacity to choose among different options towards a goal. All these notions are found in the Catechismís definition of freedom:
Excluded is any equation between freedom and licentiousness or between freedom and "acting according to oneís whims and caprices." Freedom after all, is related to the idea of "self-rule" inherent in the notion of self-possession. To be ruled by another, whether a person, or even oneís own drives and instincts is slavery. The Gospel proclaims freedom. St. Paul tells the Galatians: "For freedom, Christ has set us free. (Gal. 5:1)" John the Evangelist proclaims: "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)" This freedom results from the Christiansí new status as sharers in Christís sonship, a new dignity received from Godís grace.
If freedom is self-rule, then what is the "rule?" By what does the self rule itself? Classical philosophy points to the natural law. Christian conviction while not denying this, responds that above the natural law, there is Christís commandment of love:
Augustine knew the emptiness of a libertineís life. His escapades both in boyhood and young adulthood gave him much to lament on in his maturity about that slavery which paraded itself as freedom20. Augustine saw his possibilities as a young man and made his choices, choices that he regretted afterwards realizing how a false notion of human life and God and has led him from one dead end to another. His experience of his own sexuality made him despair of ever possessing himself to a degree that would allow him to make a commitment to marriage. He wanted so much to excel as a rhetor. But even that was a form of slavery; for in wanting that, he was in fact chained to the expectations of a society that applauded achievements while not minding "the state of oneís soul"
"The Truth shall set you free!" (Jn. 8:31)
Augustineís experience of liberating grace mediated through an encounter with the Word of God in Scriptures made him realize that freedom is not something achieved by oneís own powers. It is a gift from the God who loves us, and loving us wants us to be free. John Paul II gives the following observation:
Finally, the following corrolaries should be noted: