I just got a letter from a friend, who had read my recent entries here and wanted to offer some advice. He sees me trying to live both the "eschatological/evangelical" life (radical discipleship, poverty, witnessing to the things beyond this life?) and the "incarnational" life (family, fatherhood, witnessing to the gifts of God in this life?), which are both important, but he feels one person can't live both.

My friend is right about me, I think. And he seems to mean well. His categories are pretty traditional religious ones, bringing to mind the two-tiered spirituality popular during the height of the monastic movement, where the stricter (higher) spiritual life was only expected of priests or monks who could devote themselves to that, and a lower standard accepted for those who had families and jobs. Most Christians today would probably say they don't agree with this. Yet I've found myself running into it again and again. Like the many times people have told me that "living by faith" (without stable income or property, trusting God to provide for needs as they come, as Jesus did) is not compatible with marriage and family. Though I know there are Christian examples that prove otherwise...

And this past weekend there was a "new monasticism" gathering here, mostly made up of non-Catholic young people. I wrote about this new movement a year ago. And I mentioned that the danger here is the same as in monastic times, that a higher standard is set up for small "heroic" groups of people, instead of it being a challenge and expectation for all Christians to follow Jesus' extreme example.

Because didn't Jesus live both the "eschatological/evangelical" life and the "incarnational" life? And didn't he call everyone to follow his example, no matter what their life situation?

The good news is that Jesus invited everyone to follow him, to join him in the highest spiritual life, the life of the kingdom of God, which is also the most beautiful, fulfilling, human way to live. No one is relegated to the lower tier. No one is left to be an admirer instead of a follower.