26 October, Wednesday — Fear and Trembling

Wednesday of Week 30 in Ordinary Time

Eph 6: 1-9 
Lk 13: 22-30

“Try your best to enter by the narrow door…”

In Luke’s gospel today, Jesus had some acerbic words to the question of who will be saved. What Jesus said implies that the path to salvation is not going to be an easy one. We know this, and this is oft repeated. But what exactly is so difficult about it? I think it has to do with the contradiction between God’s will and our will, that makes it difficult. Not only that, even if we do want to follow God’s will, can we be sure we have discerned it properly?

In the Douay Rheims version of the bible, today’s passage from Ephesians contains the phrase “fear and trembling” in verse 5. This struck me and stuck with me, especially when verse 28 of today’s gospel mentions Abraham in the Kingdom of God. Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling talks about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, and explores the issues of absolutely following God’s instruction and the ethics of sacrificing your child in relation to being regarded as a person of faith. Do we follow God’s direction, no matter where it takes us and what it takes from us? Does it ever come to a point after which we can be considered insane for having followed through? And what point would that be?

The struggles are real for a lot of us. While we strive to live a life true to the Gospel, we are also trying to live. Even more so when we have people in our families who depend on us, because they are no longer or not yet independent. I’ve always wondered how the people around me balance their faith with what they do. Or is it because they have successfully managed to separate the two? In that case, would things still be considered difficult for them? Are they going through the narrow gate or the wider one? Am I, as usual, overthinking and overcomplicating this?

I, for one, do feel a certain stress about living a life in accordance with God’s will. I recently spoke with someone, who said that he wants to think a bit more deeply about what he is called to do. “My time is really God’s time. It doesn’t belong to me.” Those were his words. I too, started pondering on these words. My time belongs to God. My life belongs to God as well. I need to do what He wants me to do, and I need to discern that, don’t I? But this is so difficult to put into action because by default, what God wants from us is not going to be a walk in the park, and because we tend to second guess ourselves when things turn awry, thinking we had discerned wrongly.

Personally, I had some reservations about quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home parent when my second daughter was born. But my daughters needed me to be with them and indeed, I realised what I had missed with my older daughter when I had still been working. I worried about my home making abilities; I worried about the loss of my paycheck; above all, I worried about my parenting abilities. What convinced me was hearing our Archbishop, during a retreat, talk about being fully present for our children. He kept on saying that, and I had felt that message was for me. And so I quit my job.  

While I do enjoy spending a lot of time with my children, I was still worrying about everything even though it appears we are doing just fine. That is because I am a worrier. And alas, who could have known that we would be hit with a pandemic, and a recession? And now my worry has grown. Is that still the right choice, or do circumstances now require that I need to contribute to the household income? What does God want me to do? I browsed around online for freelance and temporary work, but did not manage to find something suitable. I took it as a sign that I was to simply focus on raising my children. I was also secretly relieved as I honestly do not have the bandwidth to spare for work right now. So I am back to juggling my vocation with my worries, however unfounded.

Abraham’s situation is admittedly a lot more severe than mine — he was not asked to quit his job. He was asked to kill his son. What a dilemma! Kill my child, or disobey God? I think I will take my chances with disobeying God. But wait, what does that say about my faith? That I lack faith in God? That I am unable to take the narrow gate? That I cannot leave everything to pass through the eye of the needle? Did I hear God correctly in the first place?  

Many people face such dilemmas. If we do not have to make such life and death decisions, we would not understand the anxiety and fear they go through. I don’t, and I do not ever wish to. But there is one thought that struck me. If I choose the narrow gate, things will likely be difficult. I am going to need help from others. Now, I need to depend on other people willing to also choose the harder route in order to render help. I have to hope that others also pick the narrow gate.

We all have many roles to play — as a parent, as a child, as a worker, as an employer. As a result of all these roles and all these relationships, we cannot avoid having our words and actions affect other people. Whether it is a minor issue of preference or a major one of morality, we often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do we stick to what God wants us to do and hurt the ones we care about, or even put them in danger? Or do we ignore God’s instruction and follow our own instincts and reasoning, keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe but discarding our morals?  

I, for one, would go for a mix of both. Although I know not what the future holds, I tend to want to be in control. How ironic. And therefore I would do as I am asked until the point where I feel that going further would be detrimental to myself and my family, then I will stop and say, “I cannot do what You want of me now”. What I do know, is that God is the one who will truly come through at the end. No matter which path we choose, whether or not we take many mis-steps along the way, God will eventually see His plan through. This should not be an excuse for not obeying His command, though. It is a promise and a guarantee for those who bravely and fearfully see through their vocations, and also a comfort for those who choose to put aside God’s plan for a while, that they will one day return to the path of the narrow gate. 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we will have the courage to follow Your will. We pray that we will have the faith to obey Your word. We also pray that we will always have hope to return to You, even after we have strayed from the path.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank You for Your everlasting love and patience for us.

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