Vocation Director Reflection
By Fr. Kevin Walsh
As 2024 opens out before us and we reflect on the gift of time offered us by God who is both timeless and infinite, we pause to wonder at the relationship of love that brings God to give us life, creating us with the capacity for goodness and endowing us with a freedom that allows us to express godliness as each choice reveals us exercising this freedom and thereby collaborating with God in bringing about his kingdom.
To say we are free means we have to distinguish between “license” — I can do it and therefore I give free reign to any and every impulse — and true “freedom” — I can do this, but what will be the consequences for me and for others, if I make this choice?
Centuries ago, Augustine invited folks to appreciate how important freedom is and how careful we must be in making choices. The desert fathers and mothers in second century Egypt spoke of eight thoughts and the care we must take in recognizing that the unrestrained ego can lead us into havoc. Sister Meg Funk’s book, “Thoughts Matter”, is a contemporary distillation of these ancient teachings and is a marvelous tool to inform us as we try to live faithful lives today. Monastic living continues to invite those called to this path to pray always, be moderate in speech and allow your manner of living to manifest your faith in God.
There is a reason God gives us the gift of life. Just as there is a reason God gives us the gift of time. While present day culture might bring you to think it’s all about enjoyment or self-gratification, the desert teachers and Augustine invite us to view life from a larger perspective. Pope John Paul II would say “I live a freedom that is ordered to duty and the first duty is faith.” When we understand what we do with our lives expresses our response to receiving the gift of life, it brings us to begin to make our choices less from simply pleasing ourselves and we begin to ask what will be pleasing to God? And rather than feeling restricted by this, we discover a joy. Pope Francis often invites those listening to distinguish between happiness and joy — that emerges as we choose to live this dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God. (So often in monastic literature, the authors are reminding us our true identity is to be like God or to be God bearers.) But those are ideas to be developed at another time.
May the new year be a season of grace for each of us and all of us together. And may we meet the opportunities to use time and freedom well with a sense of awe and wonder that affords us a great joy as we grow to understand that God chooses us as his beloved.