I have been feeling very spiritually anxious for quite some time about one of Lord Jesus’s teachings, concerning his seemingly very explicit commandment to serve the less fortunate among us who need help, on pain of eternal punishment if we do not do so. I love Jesus with all my heart and soul and I want nothing more than to serve him and love him and be near to him and that my life should be pleasing to him. I am not questioning his goodness remotely. He is Lord and God and his word is truth, so if I am struggling to accept it, then maybe it is really just my problem and I need to grow as a person in his grace (yes, I’m praying a lot for direction in this).
What I am questioning is how this teaching squares up with the long hermitic tradition of withdrawing from the world to seek holy contemplation and intimacy with God (saints in convents, caves, etc) without being caught up in society. I long for the sacred quiet life more than anything, even if it means not being involved in social service of any kind.
Are there saints who were really just contemplatives and did not especially seek to serve the poor?
I am struggling with this teaching because I am a contemplative soul and I feel very drawn to the quiet, prayerful, reflective, monastic, nearly hermitic life (even though I am just a layperson). I feel very intimidated at, overwhelmed by, and nearly incapable of serving the desperate and needy, precisely because it is so draining and it is energetically the polar opposite of what I feel called to. And besides, even among other Catholics, I feel repulsed by how social services have very nearly become the idol of modern Christianity, as if working in a soup kitchen is more important than direct worship and prayer. Please keep in mind that I am an ex-Unitarian Universalist and escaping the cult of social justice has been a painful point for me.
Also, I am not asking anyone for advice on what vocation I should have. I am engaged.
I just want to know if I can truly be pleasing to our Lord as a quiet, contemplative soul who seeks his face inwardly, in the beauty of his word and in prayer, without going to an overwhelming smelly soup kitchen when I also have a day job and a marriage and future kids on the way.
Here is the excerpt from Matthew 25:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”