Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy and Vocations

The 3rd week of advent is supposed to focus on joy. At our parish we had the vocations director for the diocese giving the homily. The homily he gave was a rather unremarkable vocations talk that completely ignored the readings and the liturgical calendar. But I got to thinking about the relationship between joy and vocations.

When you talk to a young person about a religious vocation you often get a strange reaction. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they groan. Sometimes they just go all quiet and look embarrassed. Why is that? Why is a religious vocation so hard to even talk about? I think one of the main reasons is the person lacks the gift of joy. The Catholic faith is supposed to give you a deep spiritual joy. When you don't have it then you can't imagine a religious vocation. A joyless faith is something you want to minimize. A bit like paying taxes. You see the need to do it but you don't want to do any more of it than you are required to. The real source of joy in your life is worldly things.

That is sad. It is common but it is sad because the catholic faith is meant to give a person the most profound experience of joy possible. If that was not true then religious vocations don't make any sense. A vow of celibacy would be silly if we can't find greater joy in God than we can find in sex. A vow of poverty presupposes that money can't give us the joy God can. A vow of obedience only makes sense if power and personal freedom are means towards the ultimate end which is God. We know this. We confess it. But does our heart really believe it?

If we lack this spiritual joy we tend to fall into the deadly sin of sloth. We just can't work up much energy for living the faith. We don't deny it. We just don't get as excited about it as we do about worldly things. Spiritual sloth is not just deadly for religious vocations. Any time we have a crisis in religious life we also have a similar one in marriage. That is why when you talk with young couples about contraception you get almost the same reactions you get when you talk to young singles about vocations. They have already decided that the Catholic faith is not worth such a sacrifice of worldly pleasures. God is not seen as the source of joy but rather the enemy of joy.

Like many sins sloth tends to prevent it's own solution. When we are slothful Christians we don't meditate on the great truths of the faith. We don't frequent the sacraments. We don't give sacrificially of our time and money. So our fears become realized. Christianity is boring. No. Half-hearted Christianity is boring. Real faith, where you give your whole life with no plan B, that is anything but boring.

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