I’ve rung the bell to the novitiate many times and while waiting for it to be opened have read these words. This led me, through reflection, to come to the liberating truth that, my life is not my own. My life belongs to God and to others. In this age of individualism, where the needs and self-expression of the individual have taken on an exaggerated importance, we have lost sight of the communal nature of our being. We have forgotten the inherently communal dimension of our personhood, and in this forgetting have paradoxically forfeited a fundamental source of joy and fulfilment; a life directed toward the good of all in our communities and our society. When we rediscover the truth that our lives are not about ourselves, but about all with whom we share the gift of life, we will rediscover our real selves.
I can choose to remain locked into my own private reality, seeking my happiness and fulfilling my desires; making myself the centre and the end of my thoughts, attitudes and behaviour. But then I must also be prepared to live with the consequences of this self-absorbed choice: loneliness, sadness, and a continual low-grade resentment toward life and others. But when I recognise my responsibility towards others and begin to orient my attention and concern toward them as the centre of spiritual gravity in my life, something inside of me begins to change. I become more responsive to life, I begin to trust in the basic goodness in all of life, and a quiet joy invades my consciousness. Peace has come to my home, precisely because I have chosen to open and share my home with others.
If I want to do the will of God, and if I wish to live my life in alignment with God’s will, then I must first trust that God is, that God is in control, and that God is love. So, giving myself over to the will of God presupposes a faithful trust in his loving action in my life. Living in God’s will then requires that I learn to trust God. Trusting God means letting go of our own resources and plans, our own strength and understanding, and letting go into God. This is rather difficult to do at first, but as we practice releasing our self-centred thoughts and just letting go into the care of the One who loves us and who has promised us a destiny filled with joy, we gradually begin to experience the peace of knowing that “all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well”. It is here that we discover that it is not so much about doing God’s will in the manner of behaviour modification, but rather more about being God’s will. Being in God’s will begins with trust, which itself demands faith. Faith is a letting go into a reality beyond ourselves which we cannot fully comprehend, but which we suspect, loves us. In this trusting dependence on a loving God, we truly begin to live in the will of God.
The wonderful thing about being human is that we can imagine future possibilities, and we can hope. We are not irredeemably locked into our present moment. We can look to the future with confidence and imagine things being better. This liberates us from being trapped in a present that for many people may be filled with suffering and anguish. The human spirit is able to reach outwards and forward, escaping the distress of the present and imagining a hope-filled future. Living in the present, as a positive maxim for life has its limits. This refers more to the past than it does to the future. The past can be a shackle that binds us in many ways, and so we must let go of it and live in the present. But the present is inherently open to the future; in this openness to change and possibility we escape being locked into an enclosed and static reality. Our spirit yearns forwards and longs for something beyond itself and the limitations of the now. It is in this yearning that we place our hopes for a fulfilled future. The Spirit of God continually beckons us towards the future while simultaneously urging forward. As we respond to the action of the Spirit, we allow hope to flourish in our lives and draw us joyfully to a future fulfilment.