Renunciation vs. Joyful Acceptance of Grace

Good evening. I was wondering if anyone might have any comment upon this conversation I had with a friend a few nights ago. Some background might be in order:

I’ve learned in my 33 years that life is not easy, not for anyone. Certainly, we look at the lives of others–the wealthier, those with a seemingly better career or a seemingly better marriage and family–with some trace of envy, but we forget that these others have their own private anguishes as well, and could indeed even find some reason to envy us. We are, after all, the fallen human race, all of us.

The response to all of this, obviously, is to accept this as the fruit of our human nature and as our portion of the Cross, and the work of a jealous God Who will do all things necessary to draw us unto Him again, to the point of sharing our humanity and offering up the sufferings of our blighted existence to the Father once more. And so, we, the members of His Body, offer it up with Him.

How this is relevant to vocation is that all vocations are usually, to my experience, presented more as a penance or a renunciation than as a joyful embrace of the divine plan, as a “no” rather than as a “yes.” Certainly, every no implies a yes and vice versa. However, one who thinks on those lawful things of which he’s deprived himself (or been deprived by outside agency) rather than upon the benefits offered can make a man morose indeed.

In our conversation, my friend insisted on the “yes,” and I on the “no,” almost sternly, as though I still, even knowing what I know, envy the pleasures of others and mourn the graces I’ve denied myself or have been denied by circumstance. When it comes to it, I find myself contemplating my privations more than I do my benefits, even though these privations may be necessary for my salvation. My joy, in other words, is lacking, and my grief is great.

I chose vocations rather than spirituality for this thread largely because I’m wondering if any, of any state in life, have had to deal with these issues before–or, in the case of spiritual directors or novice masters, have had to walk someone else through them.

But I’ll leave it open-ended; any thoughts?

If you could have what you think you want, with all the pros and cons of it, would it really make you happy?

ClearWater, the funny thing is that I know it would make me no more or less happy than I am now. Everything has its joy and its pain. And many things are going wonderfully now, I must admit, but I’m averse to opening the gates to pride by taking too much pleasure in them. On the grand scale of things, they’re fairly paltry anyway.

Maybe I’m so focused on renunciation because I’ve said “no” a lot, alas to some very good things, and “no” has been said to me a lot. It’s quite Bartlebyesque, when it comes down to it. But every no implies a yes.

I still don’t know to what I gave my assent. It’s led me to a foreboding sense of absence in my life that prayer, penance, the Sacraments don’t really fill. In a sense, they just seem to make it more profound.

Sometimes I feel exactly how you described your 4th paragraph, so I feel ya. All I can think of doing is pray for guidance.

Keep your eyes on Jesus at all times and such problems can be avoided. Think of ways to help others rather than comparing your life to theirs. No matter how heavy your cross is, assume your neighbor’s cross is heavier and offer to help them carry it. :thumbsup:

Or maybe we don’t have to pick either side.

What if renunciation precedes the joyful acceptance. When Jesus would call the apostles or when rich man approached Jesus looking for eternal life, he said them first to leave everything (renunciation) and then follow him (acceptance).

In addition, when we do renewal of baptismal promises, usually the bishop first asks if we renounce the sin (wordiness as says Pope Francis?) and only afterwards we answers our creed.

Thus, we may live both stages of “no” and “yes”. Probably it is usual that most of us spend a longer time, most of our lives renouncing, in the “no” until we are fully able to say “yes”.

P.S.: That’s a nice conversation. Unfortunately, not of the kind I have with any of my friends :rolleyes:

This is a great question… One I have been praying about frequently in my own discernment. Initially I was under the frame of mind that we all must live in renunciation. Many of the Church Fathers seem to have constantly denied themselves in order to remove almost any sense of the world. A constant “no” like the OP speaks of. The more I discern and pray, the more I find myself seeing that God has given each of us special gifts. There are things which each of us deeply love. Some may absolutely find joy deep in their hearts through music, others in helping others through medicine. Some may find a joy in the idea of family, while others are energized and joyful at the idea of religious life. While God calls each of us to “die to self” and to “pick up our cross and follow him” I find myself believing that it is through these gifts which we must “die to self.” We may love these things, but it is through these “talents” that we are meant to bring others to Christ. There will always be many sacrifices and struggles in life, but if we do not have the interior joy of those who are in constant prayer and have a deep devout love of the Lord, how will we bring others to Christ? We often talk of the Crucifixion and often forget that without the Resurrection the Crucifixion means nothing. But without the burning love we only find in God, does the Crucifixion happen? I am not meaning to make any assumptions, just something to think about! God gives us the strength we need to make sacrifices by his love. Something I truly believe causes many to see life and something which is to be only a sacrifice all the time is how we portray the saints. They are always pictured seemingly suffering, but we never hear about the humor of St. Philip Neri, or the St. Pio. What about the contagious joy of Blessed Pope John Paul II? This is not to say that our faith is to come completely from the heart. In a way it is, however we must use the great gift of our reason to guide our heart, and inform our heart when our desires do not align with what we know to be Catholic teaching (sin). But neither the head nor the heart should solely guide or faith, they must be used together just as Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of in his encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason). I hope this make sense!

I suppose I’ll start generally and address posters individually within as the ideas come around.

I certainly endorse your point of view, Cartesian, that the joy and the renunciation are both stages of the same action, surely as one leg must balance and then unbalance in order that we may walk. The reason that I was opposing the two is that one will be stressed at any given time over the other.

And I can also see where you’re coming from, ServantSon. I too have seen this aspect in many of the Fathers and even the more bed-of-nails type ascetics up to this day, and it leaves me with something of a sour taste in my mouth> My concern is that I’ve said no to so much (the woman, the novitiate, and so forth), without really understanding the yes I was implying. Now, so best I can discern, it looks like that yes has been a yes to privation. Sure, I pour myself consistently into the work I enjoy–as a teacher–and I’m told that the service I’m rendering is invaluable. But the day ends.

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