Par for the Course?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Our lives are influenced by commandments, and by vocation.   Commandments, in their ultimate origin, are associated with God.   There are versions of commandments, of less significance, their human counterparts, so to speak, consisting of laws, precepts, statutes, regulations, policies, rules, regulations, etc.  We encounter these frequently each day of our lives. Even children must deal with them in their homes, in the classroom and on the playing field.

But in addition to these many directives bearing on our lives and influencing them one way or another, each of us also pursues a vocation of some type or other. Whereas commandments and all their lesser versions might seem to cover every aspect of our lives, as a matter of fact, the vocations we follow, that is, the walks of life along which we trod, and which are pretty much the product of our free choice (though not completely) certainly compete vigorously with “commandments”, in terms of our attention-span and the time and effort we devote to them, leading to the interesting question: which of these two (commandments and their variations, vs. vocational pursuits) consume most of our time and effort? That is, do we devote most of our attention-span and energy into keeping various precepts, rule, regulations, etc., that others impose upon us, or do we expend most of our time doing what we want to do, by pursuing a vocation, that is, the more or less freely chosen pathway we follow through life?  This is an interesting question because it involves determining whether others exert the greatest influence on our lives and determine where our energy goes, or are we ourselves largely responsible for  what we do, think, say, pursue, etc.?   Freedom vs. Law might be a way of formulating this.

We may sell shoes or cut hair.  We do this 8 hours a day, five days a week.  We do one or the other because we’ve more or less chosen to do so, freely. No one said we had to do one of these.  We can dignify these with the title of being our “vocation”, our chosen pathway through life. Does either one of these exert greater influence on my life than the ten commandments, or the precepts of the church, or the Rules of the Road, or parking regulations, or lifeguard admonitions on using the swimming pool, or  banking regulations, or filling out income tax returns? In other word, am I my own person, or do I march to the tune played by others?  Do I follow a pathway through life I have determined, or that others have determined for me?  Where do I derive the most benefit: from the ways that others have determined for me to follow, or from self-chosen paths that I am trodding?  We have to admit we benefit from many of these rules and regulations, like the Rules of the Road.  Without them driving would be mayhem.  And the warnings on food products imposed by the government are truly helpful. But we also benefit by those weekends when we can putter around in the basement, or go out to the golf course, or spend time with the family.

So what is the bottom line: is this an either/or situation: law or freedom?  What if I had to decide between them? Or might I package them together?   God may invite us down a pathway in life, but He puts up signs along the way: some do’s and don’ts. Unfortunately, there’s something in us that rebels against what we call “interference” in our lives. But we also must honestly admit that we sometimes don’t know what is good for us.  So, like Adam and Eve, we are free to roam around the Garden of Eden, with one exception: don’t eat the fruit from the tree in the center of the garden.  Is this not par for the course?

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Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

1 thought on “Par for the Course?”

  1. Thanks again Father for giving us something to think about! We are so blessed to have you contributing these insightful and thought provoking articles.

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