Flames and Swords
Jesus says he comes not to bring peace but a sword! Didn’t the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he favors?” (Lk 2:14) And what about his rebuke of swordplay in Gethsemane: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword?” (Mt 26:52)
This sword is an attention getter that underlines that we divide how we decide.
The painful litany of “Father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” reads all our families. The fundamental relationships of human life are challenged by the spiritual relationships of Jesus with his Father and with all of us.
The sword gets our attention, but the fire does the work.
A living flame of love, God’s undivided love, is the cause of Jesus’ great stress. He is “lit” with this fire and knows that it too is our deepest desire. But we fear it because we are more acquainted with our scarcity than our capacity to merge with God’s love.
The most important skill we can bring to this contradiction is to learn how to suffer the burning discomfort of our desires and aversions without satisfying them. By meeting our discomfort directly we are gradually purified of our fear of it. In these flames we are cooked a little more into the wedding feast we are called to become. In this cooking we merge with the living flame of love and we lose our fear of being consumed by it. That’s what happened to Jesus and it’s what happened to St. Lawrence Deacon of Rome and it can happen to you.
Discernment of our vocation moves forward as we lean into the purification of our thoughts, affections and behaviors that occurs when we meet and suffer what is restless or passive within us. By avoiding the honest pain of our lives we decide to divide ourselves from true life.
Your true nature is vastly larger than your fear, shame and compulsions. Take it slow and meet your distress as gently and directly as you can. Experience its energetic pattern and force as fully as you can without moving for short periods first. As time goes on you will be able to bear more. You may even realize that really it is just a part of you trying to find its way back home. As it does you reverse the ways that you have been divided against yourself.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.