Saturday, November 22, 2014
The Joy/Fear Paradigm
“You know, people have a lot of misconceptions about nuns. For example, before I visited, I had no idea nuns were so joyful!”
This comment is often repeated by candidates and aspirants to our monastery. It is unfortunate that, for many people in our society, they think of nuns as old, dour-faced women who one day decided they couldn’t face life in the world any longer, so they shut themselves inside a building with walls. Yet, in a healthy religious community, the opposite is true. The monastery often contains women, young and young at heart, who love life, and love God and the world so much, they choose to spend their days praising God and praying for the world. There is an undercurrent of deep and contagious joy that often springs forth (especially for Dominicans – St. Dominic was known as the joyful friar everywhere he went and his children have inherited his joy). Why is this?
The Gospel on Sunday gives us some insight. It is the parable of the talents told by Jesus to His disciples. In the parable, two faithful servants who used wisely the talents their master entrusted to them. In response, the master told these two servants they were to share in his joy. But to the servant who acted out of fear and buried his talent, the master spoke harsh words with grave consequences.
When we respond generously and use the talents and gifts God has entrusted to us according to His will for us, we too share in His joy.
Imagine the joy God has and sharing more fully in it! That’s not to say we won’t experience fear. No doubt the two faithful servants also knew of their master’s reputation. Yet they chose to not allow fear to keep them from prudently using their talents and multiplying them.
God knows we struggle with fear and how it can cripple us, often keeping us from seeking and following Him. Our first parents, Adam and Eve hid from Him in the Garden of Eden because they were afraid. God has told us in the Scriptures 365 times “Do not be afraid.” And finally, Jesus conquered fear in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in His agony over facing torture and death on a cross, He finished His prayer with these words: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” In that Garden, we see that “perfect love casts out fear.”
Do you have deep joy? Is there something in your life that you try to hide from God because you are afraid? Have you asked God how He wants you to use your talents and then taken steps to be faithful and do it?
If you think God might be calling you to religious life, prayer is the most important place to begin, and then reach out to others like priests and religious to help you in your discernment. It is also very beneficial to attend discernment opportunities like a vocation day or weekend with a religious community. You may click here to find out about our discernment day in January or to contact our vocation directress who is always happy to accompany you on your discernment journey.
Let us leave you with a beautiful mediation written by C.S. Lewis on the great risk of love...
"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell".