Wednesday, January 22, 2003

In keeping with the vocational theme

Sunday's homily spoke to the vocational issue that I and so many of you are struggling with. There are two mechanisms here, and perhaps both are operating, even though they would seem at first to be in opposition.

The first, as to the question of discernment, is best put by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Cassius means it as a complaint, a call to improve his station by assassinating Caesar. But I think it is true of all of us, and much of our struggle is the same hybris that brings about the end of Cassius. Our society and our culture encourage the "climb to the top": isn't that at its root really "the American Dream"? None of really especially wants to be an underling, which is what every one of us will be so long as we seek our Redeemer. "It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven" is a sure way to miss both alternatives. But this dissatisfaction that I feel, is it not at least in part a rebellion of my pride?

The second operative was something Father recited Sunday, something Martin Luther King once said. "If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'" This desire not to be an underling, this desire to do what I want and not necessarily what I am called to do, makes it very difficult to be a good street sweeper. So long as I resent the station that I hold for leaving me an underling, I wonder if I can ever find satisfaction.

It so often happens that when I rail against my fate, a moment’s reflection and self-examination point out once again that the fault is in myself. I lack the humility and patience to be a good street sweeper when so many “better” things call out for attention.


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