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August 30, 2009

August 31st Holy Spirit Novena
Scripture selection is Day 7 Period I.

The Novena Rosary Mysteries  
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Excerpt from Response to God's Love

                                                         2

                                                         The Christian's Personal
                                                                        Uniqueness

 

                                                  Obviously, we all assimilate the mystery of Christ in basically the same way. There are, however, significant differences in how each person puts on Christ that result from the uniqueness of each individual. Each person is a unique expression of God's creative love. Each person can truthfully say that there has never before been anyone like himself or herself, there is now no one like him or her, and there never will be.

       The personal uniqueness of each human being increases in proportion to one's assimilation to Jesus. That is to say, the more I put on Christ, the more I lose myself in Christ, the more I become myself. This is true because grace perfects nature, and, consequently, the more I grow in grace, the more perfect all dimensions of my person become—and this includes uniqueness. We see, then, how fallacious is the reasoning of those who think that the more they give themselves to the practice of religion, the more their personalities will be subdued. Actually, the opposite is true—the more one grows in Christ, the more his or her unique personality emerges in all its attractiveness.

       As I grow in the realization of my own uniqueness, I should also grow in developing a sense of self-identity and self-acceptance. If God in his tremendous love for me has created the uniqueness that I am, should I not rejoice in who I am and avoid morbidly comparing myself to others? Should I not have a healthy self-image? Of course, self-acceptance does not mean self-complacency. Honest self-reflection will always reveal to me that there are weaknesses that must be further curbed and strengths that must be further developed.

       As God gives each person his or her uniqueness, he attaches to it a unique mission or role that is to be accomplished. Cardinal Newman tells us: "Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random. . . . God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, He lodges it in a body, one by one, for a purpose. He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us" (Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, pp. 111-112).

       Because of the uniqueness of each Christian's existence, he or she presents Christ with a unique opportunity. Each Christian has the vocation to offer Christ his or her humanity so that Jesus can re-incarnate himself in a new way. Jesus wants to continue his redemptive work through the not-to-be-repeated newness that is each Christian's uniqueness. To the extent that an individual Christian offers his or her humanity to Jesus, he or she has a unique opportunity to continue the redemption—an opportunity that no one else can offer him or her. Likewise, to the extent that an individual Christian fails to offer his or her humanity to Christ, Jesus loses the opportunity that is this Christian's uniqueness.

       Each of us, consequently, no matter what his or her occupation or status in life might be, has both the great privilege and the great responsibility to properly utilize his or her life according to God's Christic design. No one else can fulfill your unique mission, and, in turn, you cannot accomplish the unique mission of another. At times we can become somewhat fearful or anxious about the task that God has entrusted to us as we more deeply realize what it demands. We can feel the same reluctance that Jeremiah the prophet voiced when Yahweh called him:

       The word of the LORD came to me thus:
       "Before I formed you in the womb I
               knew you,
               before you were born I dedicated
               you,
               a prophet to the nations I appointed
               you."
       "Ah, LORD GOD!" I said,
               "I know not how to speak; I am too
               young."
       But the LORD answered me,
       "Say not, 'I am too young.'
               To whomever I send you, you shall
               go;
               Whatever I command you, you shall
               speak.
       Have no fear before them,
               because I am with you to deliver
               you, says the LORD."
                                                         —
Jer 1:4-8

       Jeremiah initially shrank back from the mission that God was giving him. He complained that he was not capable of accomplishing it. God answered him, however, and told Jeremiah that he was perfectly capable of fulfilling his appointed role, for he, Yahweh, would be with Jeremiah. God would work through Jeremiah, and Jeremiah, for his part, was to be open to God, allowing Yahweh to work through him according to the divine will.

       We, too, can be guilty of reacting to God's call in the same way that Jeremiah had originally reacted. This can happen as God calls one to a basic state of life. Once a person is within a fundamental vocation, one can be tempted to resist God's call to higher things, to a more complete accomplishment of his or her mission, and to a greater Christian maturity. When so tempted, a person must control his or her fears and trustingly give himself or herself to God's will. Only then will the person become convinced that God never requests anything without granting abundant grace to accomplish his design, and that, moreover, to answer God's call as consistently as possible is the only true path to peace, happiness, and fulfillment, despite the pain that is necessarily involved.

       We are aided in remaining faithful to the unique role in life that God has given us if we strive to remain aware of the great value that one life has to Christ, to the Church, and to the world. History tells us of the great difference that just one life can have regarding Christ's work; there are outstanding examples from all walks of life. Surely the Church has been enriched, and countless lay people have been inspired because of the life of a man named Thomas More. He was a layman who realized the deepest meaning of life—and he did not fail to confront the true purpose of human existence, even when that confrontation meant sacrificing his life for what he believed. Surely this life—the one life of St. Thomas More—has made a difference. In our own times, we have been enriched and inspired by an outstanding lay witness—the beloved Dorothy Day. What an inspiration she has been! Surely her life, though it was only one life, made a difference—and such a great difference. There are, too, the examples of men and women who have established religious orders and congregations. Surely the life of each of them has made an overwhelming contribution toward a better Church and a better world. Consider also the life of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, a person from a peasant background who eventually came to be called Pope John XXIII. Surely the world is so much better for Pope John's having given it his love, kindness, joy, and constant concern. Of course one life does make a difference.

       At this point, however, many will object that the above examples highlight the lives of persons who have achieved outstanding recognition in the external order of things and have commanded great public attention. People who voice this objection often say that their own lives are so mundane, so hidden, so incapable of making headlines. Surely, they continue, this rather too ordinary kind of life makes little difference to Christ, to the Church, and to the world. Surely it does not much matter whether a person living this kind of existence fulfills his or her God-given mission. At first glance, many of us would tend to agree with this reasoning, a reasoning that is really the exact opposite temptation of what we considered when we likened ourselves to Jeremiah. In that context there was a question of being tempted to do nothing because we feared the greatness to which we were called; in the present context, however, it is a question of being tempted to do nothing because we think we really have nothing to contribute. Yet, as we begin to reflect in mature faith, we soon see the fallacy of this objection. We realize that great external accomplishments or a life that attracts public attention do not, in and of themselves, make that life great and truly worthwhile. If a Christian life that is characterized by notable external achievement is truly great and meaningful for mankind, we know that it is so because the external achievement has sprung forth from an attitude of deep faith, hope, and love. This, then, is the ultimate answer to the above objection—every Christian's life, no matter how ordinary it might be in its external framework, can be tremendously important and can make an outstanding contribution toward the work of ongoing redemption as long as it is increasingly consistent with God's will.

       God's ways are not always our ways, and his thoughts are not always our thoughts. God can take a life that seems so ordinary, so prosaic, so uneventful, and achieve wonders with it as long as the person is striving to fulfill his or her role in life according to God's designs. We cannot, then, use the ordinariness of our lives as an excuse for not making our existence truly great, truly significant for both Christ and humanity—a life that truly makes a difference. Karl Rahner has advice for us when the ordinariness of our lives tempts us to think that our existence is unimportant and almost useless: "Let us take a good look at Jesus who had the courage to lead an apparently useless life for thirty years. We should ask him for the grace to give us to understand what his hidden life means for our religious existence" (Spiritual Exercises, p. 160). Notice that Rahner describes the first thirty years of Jesus' life as "apparently useless." In reality, of course, Christ's very ordinary existence at Nazareth was not actually useless but was, on the contrary, tremendously important—it was part of his redemptive effort. No, it is not the ordinary setting of our lives that is an obstacle to our making a unique and important contribution to the cause of Christ. The real obstacle, if we allow it, is our failure to relate to life's ordinariness as God intends.

       The realization of the greatness of our own lives, however, must be balanced with a realization of the limitations that are attached to that greatness. We are finite creatures who have various limitations that emanate from our finitude. A sense of limitations, then, should accompany the fulfillment of our mission in life.

       What are some of these limitations? First, it is important to realize there are false limitations—limitations that need not be—as opposed to inevitable limitations—limitations that spring forth from the fact that we are finite creatures who are immersed in the human condition. An example of a false limitation is demonstrated by the person who succumbs to the temptation of wanting to be someone else. This person looks at the physical and intellectual gifts of one person, the pleasing personality of another, and so forth and so on, and convinces himself or herself, that, if only he or she were endowed with such qualities, well, yes, then it would be possible to really accomplish something with his or her life. In other words, the person fails to accept himself or herself as God has made him or her. This person fails to accept his or her God-given uniqueness and wastes precious time looking at what he or she does not have, rather than appreciating that with which God has actually endowed him or her. Such a person must accept himself or herself, once and for all, in his or her fundamental uniqueness. Moreover, this person must develop the gifts, strengths, and capacities of his or her uniqueness and strive to control its weaknesses as much as possible. He or she should also realize that only by accepting his or her uniqueness as coming from God's creative love and constantly striving to allow that same love to bring his or her uniqueness to fulfillment will he or she achieve ultimate peace and happiness. Then, and only then, can a person properly make his or her contribution to continued redemption.

       Surrounding our uniqueness, then, are limitations that need not be; similarly, there are also limitations that are inevitable. We possess certain talents, for example, but present circumstances do not allow us to exercise these talents here and now. Even at those times when we can exercise our talents, we often feel limited because we realize that we have only a certain amount of energy; that there are only a certain number of concrete opportunities and a certain amount of time for us to use our talents. At other times we feel limited because the persons we are trying to serve are hostile to our efforts and shut themselves off from what we desire to so generously offer.

       These, then, are some examples of limitations we can experience in our efforts to fulfill our mission. To balance the realization of the greatness of our call with the realization that we will be variously limited—sometimes painfully so—in our striving to implement our mission is as necessary as it is challenging.

       Each Christian, therefore, because of his or her personal uniqueness, has a unique mission to fulfill in helping continue the work of Jesus. Each Christian is given the opportunity to contribute as he or she receives the call from God, and, obviously, there are varying degrees according to which a Christian may respond or not respond to God's call. There are, first, those who hardly respond at all, who seem to be barely Christian. They may have faith, but it is a dead faith, for they refuse to be guided by God even in serious matters. They want to be complete masters of their own existence; the less they have to think about God, the better. Originally, some of these people may have been given a call to magnificent Christian greatness in this or that state of life. They may have turned a deaf ear to true greatness, however, and determined to be makers of their own self-conceived greatness; their concept of greatness may never have transcended the limits of space and time—they may have thought and acted as if their temporal existence would extend forever.

       Second, there are other Christians who essentially respond to God, but not as completely as possible. Their lives seem to be an average mixture of both continuing faithfulness to God and occasional disloyalty to him; periodically they accomplish much good, but they also mix in a considerable degree of mediocrity. They do, however, seem to be basically sincere Christians who do, in fact, promote the work of Christ and essentially fulfill their roles in life.

       And finally, there are those Christians who initially answer God's call and continue to answer it in an eminently generous manner. They develop their uniqueness marvelously and become forceful shapers of the world's Christic destiny. Their good actions are deeply etched into the human process, although they may well be hidden from public acclaim. Because of them and their actions, the world's goodness is enhanced, and mankind has come considerably closer to fulfilling its temporal and eternal destinies.

       Today's Church needs more of this type of Christian. The Church and the world in which she is situated are experiencing a time of crisis—perhaps the most critical time of all history, for at what other time in human history could life as we know it on this earth end so suddenly in a nuclear holocaust? Yet, although we live in an age of special crisis that has tremendous and numerous problems, we also live in an age of great opportunity. God, for his part, always provides for the needs of both the Church and the world in which the Church is meant to serve. Surely, in this age of great need and opportunity, God will not fail to call Christians of all vocations to completely and eminently dedicate themselves to the task at hand. We should pray that everyone will respond according to their own uniqueness and make their own special contribution to the work of Christ.

end of excerpt from Response to God's Love

 

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July 31, 1994

Words of Jesus to Members of
Shepherds of Christ Associates:

"My beloved priest-companion, I intend to use the priestly newsletter, Shepherds of Christ, and the movement, Shepherds of Christ Associates, in a powerful way for the renewal of My Church and the world.

"I will use the newsletter and the chapters of Shepherds of Christ Associates as a powerful instrument for spreading devotion to My Heart and My Mother's Heart.

"I am calling many to become members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. To all of them I will give great blessings. I will use them as instruments to help bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the reign of My Sacred Heart. I will give great graces to the members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. I will call them to be deeply united to My Heart and to Mary's Heart as I lead them ever closer to My Father in the Holy Spirit."

- Message from Jesus to Father Edward J. Carter, S.J., Founder, as given on July 31, 1994,
feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits)

 

  

 

  


 

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