Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Detachment and the Prophetic Vocation

Several months ago I started to feel sort of spiritually stalked by the prophets of Scripture. Actually, truth be told, I've always felt an affinity to them, especially to Elijah. But roughly a year ago it was like they were closing in on me, tugging on me and speaking to my heart.

At first this made me feel self-conscious and strange, mostly because prophets seem weird and awesome. Whenever I've heard a reading proclaimed at Mass from a prophet or about a prophet, I've always been intrigued more about how the message impacted the prophet than the impact of the message on the people. My fascination always took that shape. So, this tugging I felt troubled me a bit.

Slowly I have realized the obvious: God has called me to be a Carmelite. The Carmelite vocation is prophetic. Well, duh.

Actually, the Christian vocation is prophetic. But the Christian vocation is everything. It used to scandalize me that within the Catholic Church there were unique paths for individuals. I was scandalized because I only knew how to think in terms of being "right." How could both Franciscans and Jesuits be "right" about their spirituality?! One may as well ask how blue and yellow can both be "right." "Blue is blue and must be that, but yellow is none the worse for it" the poem goes.

And I have learned, am learning, that to follow in the footsteps of our holy father Elijah, I need all this stuff that God has been investing Himself into teaching me in these last years: courage, detachment, obedience, detachment, a listening heart, detachment, freedom of tongue, detachment, fearlessness, detachment. And detachment. Did I mention detachment?

Detachment is not about aloofness. It is about having my whole orientation governed by dependence on and union with God, and not by my own preferences and tastes, fears or obsessions. It is learning to go when God says go, to stop when God says stop, to speak and be silent whenever God says speak or be silent. It seems also to mean not to put my expectations in myself, and to accept my own limitations and frailty. But it also means to never, ever excuse myself from following through on what my conscience tells me to do, even though I'm aware my conscience is fallible. God throws His voice sometimes. He might very well plant a directive that, at the time, seems to have no use at all. But faith responds and the light comes later.

Mostly, I guess, detachment teaches me that I belong to Christ and His Body, which are much bigger than I am. When I do what is mine, others can function. And yet, I'm not a cog. I also grow in freedom and self-possession when I give myself to God and others. I give, and I become more, not less.

Inside me, being prophetic seems to be about asking the Lord to speak, move, live, love, minister and be present through me. Sometimes the Lord does that in ways that feel a bit freaky. But mostly the Lord works quietly, peacefully, and humbly, and this is the part I struggle to master. So much to let go of. So much truth to welcome in and allow to penetrate. Such a great Mystery to adore.

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