The idea that another will, the will of the Creator, calls us and that our being is right when our will is in harmony with his will is an idea that is foreign to most people.
A Turning Point for
Reflection – ‘To thine own self be true.’ ‘Nobody can tell you what is right for you.’ ‘Listen to your heart.’ These are the secular maxims for the pursuit of happiness in our post-modern world. To discover what is ‘right’ for one’s own being means looking inward and deciding based on what is found there.
While there is certainly an element of truth to this, maybe even a large element of truth, the quote from Ratzinger above sheds light on what is missing here. Namely, the whole reality of dialogue, of our being ‘from another’, and of this Other standing before us, above us, surrounding us, and calling to us from His own being.
Of course part of this calling, this Divine shaping of us and forming us according to His will comes through his fashioning of our inward being in a certain way, his making us to be a certain person with a unique experience of reality. And that is the measure of truth in all ‘the answer lies within your heart’ approach to personal happiness and fulfillment.
But it’s not enough. Our hearts are tricky, prone to lead us astray, as anyone with any adult experience of the world knows very well. And our hearts are not always so easily read. I can’t remember the name of the singer or the song, but I remember a song lyric: You talk about your needs as if you know just what they are/When in fact to really know them is like traveling to a star/It takes so long you die along the way.
No, our hearts are prone either to lie to us or to speak to us in such cryptic terms that we cannot easily decipher their messages to us. Today happens to be the anniversary of my first arrival at Madonna House, the community which would prove to be my vocation, in 1986. It was a beautiful May day, much like today is here – sunny, warm.
I was 19 years old, already plenty bruised and battered by life and its calamities. When I walked into this place about which I knew very little, I realized very quickly that the life I found here was exactly that for which my heart had been crying out for many years, exactly what I was made for. Now, 26 years later, I know a little better what that means, what it would ask of me, where it would take me, what is involved with making and sustaining a serious life commitment, the sacrifices and death to self it demands.
And certainly at times in the past 26 years my heart has quailed or rebelled at those demands to greater or lesser degrees. If I had gone on simply listening to my heart and its cries without any other source of information I would have left decades ago, and my life would have been disastrously impoverished.
It is this ‘other will’, this mysterious One who somehow is present, always veiled, always hidden, who has met my heart through all these years. And I think most people of faith who have committed their life to a marriage or priesthood or religious life or some dedicated life in the world know what I’m talking about.
Our hearts have their intuitions, their desires, their dreams… but the real happiness and fulfillment comes only when those interior desires and dreams are met by this strange Other, this God, this Will that is not our own. Dialogue, encounter, a love affair with God—it is in this alone that the true happiness and ‘rightness’ of our being is found. The externals almost cease to matter at a certain point (not entirely –we’re only human, after all!). What matters really is to be with Him, to follow Him, to let Him shape us and make us and remake us and if need be break us according to his perfect plan for our life.
This brings us to the Cross, of course. If need be break us... His will and our own will eventually meet at the sign of the cross. Sooner or later there are nails and wood involved, and blood, and piercings. But this too is part of the great love affair of God and man. This strange union of will and Will, of heart with Heart, comes to its consummation on the wood of the Cross.