To be human means that we are a dependent being by our very essence. Not only are we absolutely dependent on other persons and things for our bodily survival but we have to look beyond ourselves for our meaning. We have no fulfillment within ourselves and, what is more, we know that we are answerable not merely to ourselves but to another outside ourselves.
In countless ways we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. Our existence is given without our previous consent; our heredity and all that goes with it of temperament, mental outlook, opportunities, and so forth are none of our choosing. We are conditioned from the start and can be burdened with immense handicaps and suffering. Even in those areas where theoretically we are free to choose, how many impediments come between, through tricks of fortune or the actions of others. We are frighteningly, pitifully dependent.
Nevertheless, we are answerable. We are free. In all this unfreedom and conditioning we are responsible for what we do. No one can remove this responsibility from us. We are answerable not for our temperament, not for the shape of our body, not for our natural capacity, but for what we do with these things. Our task is fundamentally the same as Jesus’. We have to live out our own individual life with its own particular amalgam, in love of God and our neighbor, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. With all our heart we have to embrace this painful condition of dependency even when it presses most sorely, never trying to pretend that it is other than it is, never railing against it but accepting it in humble, trustful obedience to the Father, and through this loving obedience filtering out all that is evil, transforming it into gold.
Sister Ruth Burrows, o.c.d.
Sister Ruth is a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk, England. She is the author of a number of bestselling books.