“Finding oneself” is a curious pre-occupation of the modern world. A Google search for “find yourself” returns 47 million results—and this probably understates the modern appeal of the pursuit of self.
For the Christian, some self-knowledge and self-understanding is no doubt necessary. For example, if we do not know ourselves at all, how could we perform any type of examination of conscience?
But we are not living our vocation of “Christian” when we always turn inwards.
Part of the Whole
A family is a community of persons, and a parish is a community of faith. We are called by Christ in every single vocation within the Church to be a “body of Christ”, and a body is made up of many members. When we forget that we are a part of the whole, we lose sight of our true identity, for we will never find true happiness in life when we consider ourselves to be the center of the whole. Christ is the center of the body, the beating heart which gives life to all of its members.
When we accept our role in the good of the body, and work diligently to fulfill beautifully the job which we are given to complete, we find deep joy in doing well what we were created to do. As our faith tells us, when the hand tries to do the work of the foot, there is discord and disharmony in the body. When the C chord plays in the place of the F chord, the masterpiece erupts into chaos.
How then, do we grow in our ability to live as a true community of faith, a family which looks outwards instead of inwards?
The Grand Symphony
First, we ask Christ to show us His will for us. Once we find peace in knowing God’s place for us in the grand symphony of life, we can focus on the details of our individual role. The circumstances of our vocation should always focus predominantly on persons. Only where human life is found do we discover lasting love and happiness.
In a family, the parent or child who focuses solely on himself and his own needs creates a disruption to the flow of the family life. Children who learn to put others first within the bonds of sibling relationships learn the meaning of humility: “you must increase, I must decrease.” When this motto of St. John is put into practice within the family, children learn how to truly love.
The spiritual health of the family should always be focused on developing the virtue of charity amongst its members.
For example, we share because we love one another, we eat this way together at dinner because we enjoy one another’s presence, we let others go first because we wish the good for them… and so on. Though such examples do not require constant explanation, when habitually practiced and given proper importance, the children will grow up with an understanding that loving one another and not offending one another is what it looks like to love God.
Young adults then go into the world beyond their families equipped to make a difference in society, because they have learned to place the appropriate order of importance in their behavior: people always come first, and my needs are not the main focus, but only a part in the whole (even while I am an integral and important part).
A Community of Servants
A parish is a community of families who also are called to look outwards. If we are a family or a community which considers ourselves higher or holier than others, we will never understand the true beauty of the whole. We look inwards only to come to see and understand our place in society, and then we commit to working in the world for the glory of God.
We may attend classes or lead studies, or spend Sunday afternoons visiting with other families; whatever our involvement within our community looks like, it is beautiful and good when it unites us to others persons. We are never called to live in isolation or loneliness.
The devil may try to tempt us into believing that there is no place for us in the body of Christ, and we must stop him in his lies right there. Every person created is given unique gifts by God, and these gifts are given “for the sake” of others.
The musician is called to use his gifts to raise others to Christ through the beauty of his talent. Similarly, the artist, the engineer, a stay at home mother—all of us can use the gift our lives to create something worthy of admiration and praise. When we go out of ourselves to share our very selves with others, we find that God blesses us with a deep satisfaction and joy.
It is as if we can hear Him saying “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Holding Hands © William Perugini / Dollar Photo Club