03 October 2007

An Attractive Falsehood

It would seem, judging from the experiences of the young women with whom we are privileged to work -- and the rapidly-progressing technological world around us -- that there is a very attractive falsehood (read: lie) being offered by popular culture. The falsehood, which can appear under many forms, is this: if you keep all your options open (for as long as possible) you can shape a life which will be free of suffering and sacrifice.
Today's Gospel poses a sharp contrast to this tempting offer. Most folks who have lived long enough to make a few "real-life" decisions have learned that every decisive choice which is made entails closing other doors and excluding other opportunities. Choosing one college means excluding the possibility of attending other colleges. Getting married to one person means not marrying another person. Choosing to pursue a career in one field excludes other career options. Following Jesus closely means working constantly to change behaviors which are contrary to the Gospel virtues. Today's Gospel reminds us that there is no life of joy that does not have suffering and sacrifice as part of its daily drama.
The missing link, it would seem, between the empty lie that society offers -- a life of no suffering and no pain -- and the Gospel call to follow the Lord is joy. When we are happy with the choices we have made those things which may be marked as "sufferings" are far less burdensome when considered in light of an abiding joy. Most parents acknowledge that the joy of having children requires many sacrifices on their part; those same, however, parents also agree that the joys of raising children far outweigh the sacrifices they have made. And so it is with those who have left behind former ways to follow the Lord. The "painless" life the world wants to offer is a life of indecision; opportunities never seized are joys never experienced. The abiding joy that the Lord offers comes at a price, a dear price, but the joy is out of this world!
"The virtue of cheerfulness requires that we should contribute to holy and temperate joy . . . which may serve as a consolation and recreation to our neighbor so as not to annoy him with our knit brows and melancholy faces."
St. Francis de Sales

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