Who am I, Lord? What is my purpose?
I have such a deep desire to help others in some grand way while all along I know that I must first put forth that effort into myself. I must prepare myself to be of service.
The best help I can be to others is to be example. To live the message, to live the hard work, to try and fail and try again, to keep emptying myself and allowing the love that is God to fill me until one day it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives through me. To be this example, I must discover my gifts and hone them (as you must yours) – you MUST hone them, and this dear friends, requires discipline.
The whole practice of honing involves stripping away excess with a blade. The process is violent and painful – this is truth. If you want to live closer to perfection, closer to your ideal, you will sacrifice – you will sacrifice wants (which sometimes even feel like needs), you will sacrifice comfort, you will sacrifice pleasure, etc…
In the beginning, it will likely feel as though you are moving farther from others towards loneliness. But trust me sweet people, the closer you get to the Divine the more joy you will know. Joy does not come from others, it does not come from relationships, it does not come from children, it comes from God and God alone. It is the gift of honing, it is the result of using the skills, the talents you were born with to do the work of loving.
We cannot love unintentionally, Love is intentional, otherwise it is tainted with our humaneness, with our poverty, with our flaws. True love comes from deep conviction and effort. Yes to love is work, to love demands you to change, you to bend, you to concede – never the other. This is what is meant by “turn the other cheek,” “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” You are not to be comforted or to feel comfortable, you are to LOVE!
This is why it is hard, very hard, if not close to impossible to truly live the Catholic faith. Our culture is all about the self, about getting what you need and holding on tight. Whereas, the Church’s purpose is to turn us into saints and saints are all about their neighbour. The whole point of honing your talents is to give yourself as a gift to others. It’s about taking responsibility for the state of this world by preparing yourself to serve in the best way possible.
People get so hung up on all the rules of Catholicism because they don’t want to change, they don’t want to be transformed into saints because it is really hard and requires a rejection of the ego (who is always telling us that self-preservation and satisfaction is the most important thing). This is the same reason why the Church won’t adapt to the ways of the world – the Church is not meant to make our lives easier, it is meant to show us the way to Christ-consciousness. All of the teachings are our opportunities to chisel ourselves into our best versions. Jesus very clearly tells us in John 15: 1-17 (The Vine and the Branches) that he wants us to know joy – everything he’s trying to teach us is so that our joy may be complete. This is not about suffering, Christianity is not about suffering – it’s about honing us into the joy-filled beings we are meant to become.
To be Catholic is to learn to die to yourself and be raised as an instrument of love. If everyday I’m choosing how to live and proclaiming what matters to me (consciously or not) this seems like a pretty good option. And, who knows, if it’s all true I’ll end up as joyful as can be and if not I’ll have made a bunch of other lives more bearable – either way I’ll have mattered, and isn’t that all any of us really wants?
Love, love, love,