Vows, in the consecrated life or marriage are meant to sustain us in the hard times. When we feel loving and are inspired and motivated by our day to day we are chaste, obedient, and generous almost without a thought. They are there binding us to whom we have promised to love, honor, and obey, but they hardly seem necessary. Strangely we often-if not always-make the vows in moments of relative consolation and zeal for the Lord or the sacrament and spouse.
Then there is the honeymoon, varied in length and kind, and the first months of joyful adaptation.
The apostles experienced a similar reality. When the Lord called, they immediately gave up everything and followed him. In a moment of enthusiastic conviction, they made a commitment to follow Jesus. Then came the honeymoon and joyful adaptation as they discovered who he was and who they were to him. They enjoyed intimate encounters reserved for them alone, and witnessed miracles for the faith of all and the glory of God.
They said they would follow him even to death. It was relatively simple.
After the joyful adaptation, the first glimpses of suffering are seen, its first pangs are felt, and the vows come to the rescue.
The apostles cringed at the thought of Jesus dying, of their own suffering, and the shattering of their false expectations. Similarly, when we see trouble on the horizon, our human nature may cringe from the suffering and conflict that is inevitable. It seems easier to abandon the call.
Suddenly, the vows catch our sinking hearts and support our weak flesh.
Then, one day suffering is no longer only a threat. It is inside our home. It darkens our souls, clouds our minds, and fills our hearts with tears. There may be disillusionment, self-deprecation or even loathing, and/or sheer terror. Our purpose and identity, that is Christ, is on the cross. Our vocation is in danger.
We have loved and will to love. The vows come to our aid guiding us in the right direction and consoling us in the knowledge that despite it all we are faithful. We did not make vows before a dead god, but before the living God. If we allow ourselves to be led by the vows, we will witness the resurrection.
One woman lived her vocation perfectly. Mary.
Then there were the apostles. One apostle remained near Christ even in the blood and sweat of Calvary. One broke his vow, and repented with true contrition to greater humility and charity. One apostle made a sacrilege of the vows and died in despair. Nine simply hid for a while, neither breaking vows nor living them fully.
Of these men, only one – one in despair - did not witness the resurrection. St. John was the beloved and St Peter inherited the keys. Whether living our vocation fully or emerging from mediocrity, we must keep our eyes on the resurrection and remember for whom and why we made vows. We must strive to live them always more perfectly, moving from the sin of infidelity to anxious resignation and rising to willed surrender.