Monday, September 2, 2013

The Key to An Exciting, Glorious Life

And yet we do [today] seem to be going to the opposite extreme [from past over-emphasis in religion on the value of suffering]. Obligations no longer bind if they involve suffering, if there is strain or difficulty. People walk out of a marriage, out of religious life, out of the priesthood, because there is an apparent lack of fulfillment; life is felt to impose a burden which we are free to throw off.

Accepting the will of God at whatever cost, certain that he gives us the strength whatever we feel, this is to follow Jesus and be his disciple. One feels that there is a great deal of frivolity nowadays, a lack of seriousness in the face of life. Yet think of the gravity of our life-span, how much is at stake.

We have only one life to live. It is easy to think we are doing God a favor, that there is an alternative to total commitment. Is there? What is it?

Reflection – This will be my last Ruth Burrows post for now – time to move on to other writers. I would encourage anyone who has enjoyed these excerpts to pick up the book – I am barely scratching the surface of it in this series of posts.

Yesterday she (and I) wrote about the centrality, not of suffering, but of love in our faith. It is love that redeems, not suffering, yet Christ’s love is expressed in his embrace of our pain on the Cross. There is a deep unbreakable connection between love and being willing to suffer for the beloved.

It has become almost a cliché to write as she writes here about the breakdown of commitment in the modern world. It is worth noting that this book came out in the mid-70s, when the culture of divorce and non-committal commitment was still fairly new. Now, it has become a relative norm, with many avoiding the ugly messiness of divorce by the simple expedient of never getting married, and of course the plunge in numbers of candidates for priesthood and religious life is well documented. I realize that this whole phenomenon of our modern world, so drearily familiar to us, is a complex one, not resolvable into facile explanations or solutions.

But it does seem to me that in the face of it, a serious presentation of the spirituality of the Cross of Christ is needed. That life is in fact about total commitment, that it is love and love alone that is the force of redemption and hope in the world, and the love is not expressed in sentimental bromides or sensual escapades but in the daily choice to commit, to live, to suffer for the sake of the beloved—this needs to be said loudly, forcefully, and repeatedly today.

‘There is a great deal of frivolity today, a lack of seriousness in the face of life.’ Indeed. You have noticed, perhaps, that I have not mentioned on this blog that most pressing subject that has captivated the whole attention of the free world, the most riveting issue of our times which has had such a devastating effect on us all. I refer, of course, to Miley Cyrus’ booty.

No, somehow I have not seen fit to mention that. Somehow, with a very real possibility of World War III breaking out in Syria, with Christians being slaughtered in Egypt, with apocalyptic scenarios genuinely threatening on all sides, the particular dance moves busted by pop starlets on MTV just seems… well, frivolous, and shows a lack of seriousness in the face of life.

God is always calling us to a total commitment, a serious taking on of life and its challenges, joys, sorrows. In that, there is great room for laughter and fun, celebration and good cheer, but always in the context of living a serious life of consecration to love and truth, as Christ lived.

I don’t know how to communicate to the young people currently coming of age in our world how utterly essential it is to make a life commitment. Many do, of course (we have six new applicants coming into Madonna House next Sunday!), but many more are finding it very hard to get there, and there is a great loss in that for them and for all of us. Because this is the key to a glorious, happy, exciting, consequential life. It is a cross-shaped key, indeed, but that’s just the way it is. And with that, my own commitments are calling me (time for prayers!), so I will leave it at that for today.


  1. Did you read Pope Frsncis is calling for a day of prayer and fasting Sept 7... For peace in Syria and Middle East.

    1. Yes indeed - and we're hoping to do something communally at MH in response to that. Very serious times we're living in, eh?

  2. Thank you.
    Such anguish. I read that Thursday the UK voted against a military strike in retaliation for the chemical weapons. Wow, huh. I can't get those images of white body bags out of my head. I do not think they have found the body of the Jesuit priest who went missing after trying to negotiate a truce. Syrian refugees everywhere and Israelis scrambling for gas masks. The price of gas everywhere rising. Very scary times indeed,
    I found the popes statement of vatican radio comforting. We can find comfort in one another, but also hope and strength in God.
    Bless you.

  3. "War begets war, violence begets violence" Pope Francis

    I am still here with Syria. So painful and worrisome. Today, I read that that several key figures are now in support of military intervention in Syria, because of the use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate attacks on people.

    Indiscriminate attacks? So discriminate attacks are okay? Then I started trying to read the Jesuit analysis of All this in light of the Just War theory. I don't know why I do this, it never helps. I wrote as many as I could think of in congress. I have such a little voice.

    Why aren't more people talking about this? If congress authorizes military intervention- that always means war. Some of those whose support for is sought- have already announced much more vicious retaliation. Don't believe their narrow approach until you actually read the proposal.

    Another war is close at hand now. Where is everybody?

    I can't think what else to do...and so I am praying. I am just starting a few days early.

    Please pray with me.

    1. I know, Catherine. My blog post today tries to express my own rather pathetic response to the whole thing. It is a terrible situation, and the almost deafening silence about it from all the people who were so vocal in protesting Iraq is also terrible.
      While there is no 'good' course of action right now in Syria, the military intervention being proposed seems to me to be nothing short of insanity. Lord have mercy on us.

    2. YES.
      Silence also, mostly, from those who campaign strongly to protect life.
      But let's not digress and divide.
      If we could just join together...
      Bless you,


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