By Mary Ann Otto, pastoral minister for missionary discipleship, St. Mary and St. Joseph Parishes, Appleton, Wisconsin
I was involved in a small group reflecting on one of Bishop Robert Barron’s books, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Lively Virtues. The beauty of this process is that we are called to a change of heart. The challenge of this process is that we are called to a change of heart.
Bishop Barron begins by suggesting that the polar opposite of love is fear. He suggests we are unloving because we are afraid of losing control, of others having more prestige, more possessions and of not accomplishing personal goals. Bishop Barron describes love as: “Allowing ourselves to be conduits of God’s divine love.” We are called to delight in each other’s hopes, dreams, gifts and successes. Parallels can be made between love, fear and our ability to be Christian stewards. Each day we make decisions either grounded in love or fear in regards, for example, to matters such as the depth of our gratitude, the time we make for prayer, the extent to which we are willing to offer our talents in service, and the extent to which we share generously of our treasure. In light of this, I decided to do a self-check and reflect on where I fall between these two polar opposites of love and fear. The fear side of me suggests that I love and trust myself first, live independently and make self-actualization my goal.
As a person of fear, I am afraid I might be less and have less. On the love side of this lovefear balance, I have placed my trust in God. My commitment to prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit are key components. Love would be the measure of my success. I would live life in gratitude, in relationship with Jesus, serve wherever I’m called and give generously of the treasure. I truly want the best for others and I want to do something about it! So where am I between love and fear? Let’s say I am intentionally traveling on the highway toward authentic love and take less off ramps than when I was younger. I know my road will end in front of the Master one day where perfect love exists. I hope that my life as a steward will reflect that I was “leaning into” the love side of the love-fear continuum all along.