I’m over here . . .

Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates Mass for Nascent LifeThere are many things about my life, apostolate and role in my community that I love.  But I believe the one thing that I love the most is the many interesting questions that people ask me, not to mention the fact that the people are equally interesting.

In discussing life’s choices with people, I often hear the word “hurt”.  Many conscientious people are fearful of hurting others by their choices, especially their parents and siblings.  This is laudable.  We must always avoid intentionally doing something that will harm another person, be it a parent or a stranger. However, we must be very careful here.

There are two key words there, “intentional” and “harm”.  When harm is intentional, a person knows that this particular evil choice will do harm to another person and he goes forward with it.  This does not mean that good choices never cause pain.  They often do.  But the choice remains good.  One has a moral duty to choose the good and avoid evil.  When there are two goods to be chosen, one has a moral duty to choose the higher good, if there is freedom to do so.

Let’s apply this to vocation.  A vocation is a call from God to man.  God calls man to one of several states in life:  marriage, holy orders, or some form of consecrated life.  These are all good, because they are all from God and lead back to God.  However, they don’t lead  everyone back to God.  If someone forces himself into a marriage to please another person, it is very difficult to find a path to God in a marriage where one is responding to the wishes of another and not to a call from God.

The same holds true the other way around.  One may walk away from a call from God to please another person, because we don’t want to cause pain.  Let’s assume that all things point to the consecrated life or to Holy Orders.  One’s heart is already there.  Along come a parent or sibling, and one holds back from responding to God’s call so as not to cause this other person pain.  What has one done?

In effect, one has inverted the order of love.  The Commandment is very clear.  “Love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself.”  In choosing to avoid the higher good so as not to hurt the other person, we have placed that person above God and brought God down to our level.  We have no problems sacrificing neither ourselves, nor God in this case.  We just don’t want to sacrifice the other.  We have assigned the highest place to the neighbor and the second place to God alongside ourselves. 

No human being has the right to claim God’s place in our hearts and in our choices.  Nor do we have the right to assign God’s place to another, no matter how much we love that person.  There are some things that God wants us to do for others and some things that He reserves for Himself as the Lord and Giver of life.

Let’s remember, when discerning God’s will for our lives, the answer is always in the order of love.  The first place belongs to God.  We respond by doing that which pleases God first and neighbor second. It always pleases God that we make every attempt to serve and please our  neighbor, but never at His expense.  To do so would be a sin against justice.  God does have rights.  Therefore, he has first claim on our lives, whether we’re speaking about parents and children, husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters.  None of these have rights that trump God’s right to our love and surrender.  If anyone of them claim what is rightfully God’s, it is rightful to resist.

We may never do anyone intentional harm.  Intentional harm is an avoidable act that will hurt the other person .  Following God’s will is never to be avoided.  How do we know when we’re following God’s will?

First, there is knowledge.  We know that something is good and pleasing to God.  Our faith enlightens our knowledge.

Second, there is peace.  Even though we know that some tears will be shed, we know that we can place the situation in God’s hands and that in His eternal time, He will comfort those who mourn and reward the generous.

Third, we know that those who truly love us will not grieve forever.  As they realize that we are happy and that we are where we belong, they will be happy.

You cannot love another person and not be happy when he’s happy.  That’s not love.  It’s selfishness.  To cave into selfishness is to cave to sin.  Be it our selfishness or the selfishness of another, selfishness has no place in true love.  True love gives even if it hurts.  Look at St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gianna Molla, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Our Lady . . . were they wrong to love God more than they loved their family and friends?

This praiseworthy fidelity, while not seeking any other approval than that of the Lord, “also becomes a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren” (St. John Paul II).

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