Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How Important Am I?

In the Gospel, Jesus says “of all the children born of woman, a greater than John the Baptist has (the world) never seen (Mt 11:11).”  Yet, John the Baptist says: “I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of His (Jesus’) sandals.”  Is there a disconnect here?  Jesus/God says John is great; John describes himself as being less than a slave.
These two men paint a confusing picture of John’s importance, and it give me pause to consider:  relatively speaking, just how important am I?
It seems to me that people today, our culture, teach that each person should say: “I am important, most important.”  John says he was less than a slave, but our culture chastises anyone who would speak of slaves, treat others as slaves, or accept being treated as slaves.  What would they say about John’s self-appraisal?  Mentally-challenged?  Senile?  Or, in an area where it is allowed, would he be encouraged to choose suicide?  Or, perhaps some Christians would say they are just agreeing with what Jesus said, when they say that John is much more important than he thinks?
I sometimes ponder the meaning of MY life:  why am I here?  In my readings and studies, I’ve come to agree with philosophers and theologians who say that I am not just a random clump of clay.  I am uniquely born/created; I have a unique fit --- like no other person – in this world.  And, whether I wish to or not, by my very existence I DO influence other people in some way.  Since I have a God-given freedom, I choose to do that influencing in a positive way, as much as I can.  I choose to make a positive difference in this world.  So why did John seem to value so little his purpose, the difference he made in this world?
John knew that he was not God, Creator of all things, Who existed forever.  John also knew, however, that he was not like the man Jesus Christ, God come to earth.  Relative to Jesus, HIS value and HIS purpose, John knew he was miniscule, and it was in this comparison to Jesus that John said he was nothing.  But Jesus/God loved John immensely.  He created John for a very important purpose, and John fulfilled that purpose perfectly.  So, Jesus highly exalted John.
And this is where the culture’s value of a person differs.
God loves all people with the love of a Father; He created them.  They all fit in His plan for creation, His artistic masterpiece (as I view it), and each uniquely fits into the whole.  Yet, some are more noticed or critical to the big picture, while most merely blend in with the areas surrounding them.  Oh, the blending is important and it can influence how the surrounding areas are perceived, but sometimes it is something so small only the Artist would notice and be concerned about, how things turn out versus what He intended.  God, Creator, Artist, can provide some people with more talents, and then expect more from them --- a more prominent place in the picture --- and only He is the ultimate judge of how well the picture comes together.  If people fail, if they sin, it is He Who is sinned against and judges that sin.  Only the Creator can judge His creation.
The culture today, however, says: “No, I will judge.  I will decide what the picture should look like.  I will decide what is sin.  I will decide who is important.”  These people may have good intentions, but they cannot see creation with the mind of God.  God gave the commandments and then His Son to show mankind how to become as God intended, to grow in holiness, to grow in love, to be with God, to fulfill their purpose in His masterpiece of creation.  But the culture today seems to reject God’s (unknown) purpose for creation, and reject His gifts to help us achieve that purpose.  The culture seems fixated on God as a slave-holder dictator figure, rather than Father or Good Shepherd figure.  It may recognize God as creator, but gives the creator no authority whatsoever over His creation.  Similar to the Garden of Eden, mankind now says: “Here’s what I want and want to be.  Here’s how I’ll do it.  Here is how I define love and the purpose of mankind and of me.”  The culture speaks as if it were god, rejecting the real God.
So, back to the basic question: How important am I?  The answer lies in first asking: Who do I want to be important to?  Is it the culture, the world, or God?  I said I wished to use my life to influence people in a positive way, to make a difference in this world --- but, in whose opinion?  Do I value what the world thinks of me and my actions --- are they “politically correct” --- or do I value what God thinks of me and my actions --- are they morally, eternally correct?  Are they loving actions, as Jesus showed us how to love?  Am I being who He made me to be?
I choose to be important in God’s eyes, even if my role in creation is just some small shadow in a tiny corner of the picture He alone sees.  I want Him to be pleased with my use of the talents He gave me, maximizing my fit into His picture and helping others find and achieve fully their roles.  Nothing else in the world matters to me.
How important am I?  To what degree am I being who He created me to be?  That is the real question I ponder.  And it has nothing to do with what the world says I “deserve to get”, but has everything to do with what I bring to this this world using the talents He gave me.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The First Step

I was reading the Gospel for Friday, and meditating on the words of Jn 1:29-34.  John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, and said: “Look, there is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  This is the one I spoke of …”
I perceived how Jesus must have felt at that moment.  I had thoughts about my feelings when He comes to my life.  And, as is often the case, words could not describe what I felt.  And then I read the commentary in The Better Part (Meditation 241).  And it spoke the words I could not verbalize:

Jesus:  How much I love to do this.  I never force my way into anyone’s life, but I come towards everyone.  I want to attract their attention because I want their friendship and happiness.  I am always taking the first step.  Isn’t that what happened with you and me?  Don’t you remember? I caught your attention.  Even before that, I had been coming towards you in many ways.  It’s like when you are in love, and you go out of your way to run into the person you love, just to get a glimpse of them, just hoping that they will stop and talk to you.  I love you like that.  I even come right up to your heart and knock, hoping you will let me in.  I always have more to give you, more to teach you, more for us to do.  My love never runs out of words, attention, encouragement, projects – my love never runs out, period.  Keep welcoming me; keep looking out for me.  I am still coming towards you, and I will never stop coming towards you.
Christ in My Life   You are the Savior of all people.  You are the light of the world.  You are the Lamb of God.  I don’t want these words to become meaningless phrases in my heart.  Keep my faith fresh, Lord.  Just because I sometimes get tired or fall into routine, that doesn’t mean that you have changed.  You are still God; still the Lord; still the Teacher.  Open my eyes to see all the wonders of your love
I think of all the people in my life: family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances … You have a mission or each one of them.  You are calling each one of them to be saints.  And I can either help them discover and fulfill that mission or hinder them.  I want to help them.  I want to encourage them in whatever way I can to hear and heed your call in their life.  With the zeal of your heart, set my heart on fire …
Thank you for coming into my life, Lord.  Before you came, I was like an unlit candle.  Jesus, never let me be separated from you.  O Lord, what would I do without my faith in you?  How vulnerable I would be to the lies and destructive seductions all around me!  Keep me faithful to your will, Lord, and make me an instrument of your peace

(all underlines are ones I made in my copy of the book)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

20-20 Vision

During this Christmas Season, I have had some thoughts about time. (No, read that again:  I did not say “it’s about time I had some thoughts”.)  Strangely, I thought of Christ’s birth in terms of calendar time. Although the calendar system we now use was created many years later, yet under that system we would say that Christ was born in the year zero.  We always think of years as numbers, and always think that that one is the first number, but at least in time, zero is.  Zero is the starting point when it all began.  It’s like the foundation to a house, only it is the foundation to time: Year Zero.  It begins with the year Jesus Christ was born.
And from that foundation of time, time marches on, never to return.  On that foundation, in some year we ourselves were born, and in some year we will die.  We look back at what Jesus did, from year 0 to 33AD, and say: “That is who He is,” the sum of His Life, the example on which to model our life, during our years.  But we don’t think often enough that our years will also be the sum of our life.  Who we are, who we will be defined forever as, is also who we will have become at the end of our lives. How we use this life, who we become in this life, is eternally important.
Time passes and does not return.  God has assigned to each of us a definite time in which to fulfill His divine plan for our soul; we have only this time and shall have no more.  In eternity, time will be no more; we shall be established forever in the degree of love which we have reached now, in time.  No further progress will be possible when time has ended.  “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men. (Gal 6:10)”
O Lord, if I look back on the year just passed, a year given me by Your divine Providence in which to increase my love of You, I can only grieve over myself and say to You: How little I have loved You, my God!  How badly I have spent my time!”  … Well do You know, My God, that in the midst of all my miseries I have never ceased to recognize Your great power and mercy.  May it prove of avail to me that I have not offended You in this.  Restore the time I have lost, my God, by granting me Your grace both in the present and in the future, that I may appear before You wearing the wedding garment.    
                                                --- Divine Intimacy, Meditation 35, December 31st
We forget the examples Jesus gave us on how to live our lives, use our years.  We are to grow in holiness; our life is a cumulation, like we are sewing a garment --- one he describes as a wedding garment, for us to wear to the eternal marriage feast we are invited to attend, with our eternal King.
But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?”  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  For many are called, but few are chosen.  (Mt21:11-14)
This is the end of another year, another decade.  What will 2020 bring?  As I look back on my years’ past, I am glad that the sum of my life is not a tally of how may I led to Christ versus how many I led astray.  No, my life is a cumulation to the point I end up; who I am then, that is who I will be for all eternity, and so until my last year, my last day, I want keep sewing my wedding garment, to grow in holiness, grow in love, in my imitation of Him.
Lord, help me to follow You, to be Your messenger to everyone in my life.  You are so gentle with me, Lord.  You always forgive; You always nudge; You always wait with infinite patience.  Thank You.  Make me more like You.  I want to be Your light and Your goodness to everyone around me.  I want to attract them to You, however far away they may be, as the star of Bethlehem attracted the wise men.  Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like Yours.     --- The Better Part, Meditation 239, Jn 1:1-18
Happy new year, my friends.  Happy new decade.  May you live it well, and grow in holiness.  Don’t just let time pass; put on your glasses, see with 20-20 vision; this time is eternally important.