Henri Nouwen, in his writings, frequently asked this question: “How can we live inside a world marked by fear, hatred, and violence and not be destroyed by it?”

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

At a certain point in life that becomes the real task of spirituality: How do we stop ourselves from being sucked into the house of fear so as to live in the house of love?

We live in a world of division, hatred, and violence. One only has to watch the news to see this. Daily we see fear and hatred translated into violence and death all over the world. What’s true at this level is true too, in a less pronounced way, in our ordinary lives.

Inside our families, churches, and communities we see the problems of the world played out on the small screen of our daily lives. Bitterness, suspicion, the sense of injustice, anger, jealousy, hatred, division, and subtle forms of violence eventually penetrate even our most intimate relationships. We often don’t recognize these for what they are and consider them simply part of the normal give and take of everyday life.  But gossip, slander, cynicism, cutting remarks, coldness, and resentment are really the public events of the evening news manifest in our private lives. What we see on the big screen of the evening news, fear and its consequences, is also pretty much what we have lived during our day.

What this does is keep us, almost always, inside the house of fear.

The spiritual task of mid-life and beyond is to resist hardness, cynicism, bitterness, and fear and to become childlike and trusting again. But this isn’t easy.

The answer of how to move beyond this lies in sustained daily prayer. God is always inviting us into the house of love, but given the hardness we so often experience in our everyday circles, it is only in intimate prayer that we can hear a voice gentle and trusting enough to entice us to let go of fear and move beyond the need to protect ourselves.

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