Essential commitments

Daily Reading for July 12

We are frequently told that we live in an age that doubts the wisdom, perhaps even the possibility, of commitment. At the same time, we can see a profound yearning for the values of community in the society of our times: the stability and sense of identity, the rootedness, that is so often lacking for those who live in the modern city. As Simone Weil puts it, ‘To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.’ Lacking a trust in the essential commitments we would like to believe in, but finding no other path to follow, can be a dispiriting descent into a nihilistic wilderness. Paradoxical as it may seem, only when we are rooted have we really begun to take risks.

As the experience of spending time in a monastic choir makes immediately apparent, monks are one of the clearest signs in the contemporary church of the reality of commitment. The vowed life, the patterned, regular way of living—in a world in which every involvement becomes provisional, in which the individual is all too often only the sum of her economic parts, these are signs of something we say that we want.

Nevertheless, we fear this commitment. It is no accident that people of our time prefer to keep their options open. The ‘deadly theatre’ that we see all around us—the relationships we know to be sham, the ruts we see ourselves and others slipping into, the numbing routine in dead-end situations—all these realities frighten us, as well they might. Commitment is a response, not an initiative. Unless there is something that evokes from us a desire to be committed we will never be able to make that leap. Underpinning all commitments by men and women is the belief that God is committed to us. We can see all too clearly that in the absence of the rising sun of salvation, we do not have the confidence to leap on our own.

From Crossing: Reclaiming the Landscape of Our Lives by Mark Barrett. Second edition. Copyright © 2002, 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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