I just read this about discerning God's will...
It can happen more often than we may like to admit that our discernment ends up being about trying to bring God around to our way of thinking. We want to do the Lord's work but we want to do it our way, and don't necessarily want Him to be in control. True openness is more than just accepting intellectually that God could be calling us. Basically it means that, in spite of our fears and anxieties, we offer ourselves from our heart, "I will do whatever you ask me to do."
...and it inspired three thoughts.
1) Whenever I've been in that "bring God around to my way of thinking" stage, it created a certain anxiety or dissatisfaction in the background (or the forefront) of my mind.
2) Jesus told His followers (here, for instance) to trust God, let Him provide, and not worry. But a necessary precondition of that peace in God must be to accept His will and give up our own. He promises to care for us but doesn't promise all the things we want, unless He's what we want: "Delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart."
3) Sometimes I hear people say, speaking of some sacrifice or work for God, "I could never do that!" I'm afraid the person really means, "I will never do that. I'm not even remotely willing, so I'm putting you on notice, God-- don't even think of asking me." But maybe the person's just humbly downplaying her inability to accomplish anything without God's help, or expressing a spontaneous feeling rather than some deep-rooted rebellion.
Okay, more Liturgy of the Hours stuff! The Mass readings all week have been taken from John 6, the chapter where Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." So the readings in the Office this week are focusing on the necessity of His incarnation to His victory over death. This was a reading for yesterday (at the bottom of the page). It's by St. Ephrem, a deacon in Turkey who died in AD 373. I especially loved this image:
Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.
And the reading for today was by St. Cyril of Alexandria who died in AD 444. He offers a slightly more abstract but also wonderful image; think of this next time you're going to receive Holy Communion:
When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.
And if you were celebrating the feast of St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria who also died in AD 373, the reading was taken from his own sermons and dwells on the same theme:
He took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen. If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality.
Within the Virgin he built himself a temple, that is, a body; he made it his own instrument in which to dwell and to reveal himself.... He utterly destroyed the power death had against mankind – as fire consumes chaff – by means of the body he had taken and the grace of the resurrection.
Just some examples of why I love the Liturgy of the Hours. :)
Hey, I just found a blog full of lovely videos about religious life. This very blurry video in particular caught my eye. It's a report by ABC news that largely focuses on the Poor Clares in Roswell.
I enjoyed watching the video, but I'm not sure it really gets the cloistered life. It makes it sound like being a nun is mostly about painful sacrifice. "Who are these women, and why would they choose to give up careers and romance? As Diane got to know them, the mystery only deepened."
Then we see an old clip of a reporter interviewing Mother Mary Francis:
"And how often do you come out?"
"Well, ordinarily we never do."
"Never? There's a whole world out there! Why do you do this?"
"So that we can save the whole world!"
"Once inside," the reporter continues in voice-over, "we were stunned by the ferocity of self-denial."
And so on.
But that's not what I hear nuns themselves emphasize. I'm sure they find it hard to fast, and get up in the middle of the night, and be separated from loved ones, but when I hear them talk they say things like, "I realized how much God loved me, and that no worldly life would ever fulfill me because I wanted to be entirely God's, so I came here and I'm so happy!" As for "the whole world out there", we're closer to it when we're praying for people than when we're attending to our own concerns. I don't think the news clip captured the motivation of the cloistered life. But don't get me wrong; I liked it and I'm glad the reporters decided to do the story.
Change of subject-- last night I stayed up very late at my parents' house, so I spent the night, got up this morning, and dragged myself to the local church for 8:30 am Mass. It's only a few blocks away, but this was only the second time I'd visited it. And I discovered that it has a lovely little adoration chapel I never knew about! So I prayed in there for a while-- that's where I found all those readings I excerpted above.
One rather remarkable thing about this chapel was the thermostat, or rather the sign above the thermostat, which read, "Please adjust to your own comfort level." Can you believe it? Have you ever seen a thermostat say that? Don't thermostats normally threaten death and dismemberment to anyone who dares to touch their sacred controls? I was impressed.
Update: Someone posted a letter from a cloistered nun in the comments-- check it out!