In recent times, a brother priest and I talked about the divisiveness and vocality that are becoming more disturbing within our nation. It was a good conversation, and I think both of us agreed that many people had lost their focus on what is really important, especially the ability to rise above the changing politics, opinions, trends, and disagreements in order to fix their eyes on eternity. We have become very comfortable speaking our what we like or do not like, but only a few of us are actually listening, much less those who want to dialogue with mutual respect and kindness. We have seen more and more personal attacks on one another through social media, political platforms, and other communication means, but not many are willing to have the civility to sit down and talk about what is truly important. Perhaps, these are all the signs that we have lost and forgotten our real self-worth, mission, and purpose as human beings and as children of God.
As a priest, I have seen so many people who asked me to speak about certain things, blamed me for not being “courageous enough like other priests that I have seen,” and dislike the things that I am trying to pervade about the spiritual life. For them, prayer and spiritual matters are “important,” but not as important as the things “we need to do to fix our nation.” To be honest, perhaps even with all the best intentions, people get so worked up about current matters and present things that they have never given God enough time to pray, reflect, discern, and seek His will. So many people tend to hide behind political labels and righteousness to condemn others, but they themselves are full of pride, arrogance, hatred, and restlessness.
So many people speak like they are Christians and believers, but they themselves have no spiritual life and understanding of prayer at all. So many people say that they are religious but do not adhere to nor choose to live a moral life of virtues, especially according to the commandments and teachings of the Church. At the end of the day, we have a lot of people who speak about many things and react to a lot of stuff, but actually do nothing that pertains, gives life, and focuses on eternity.
How we look at life depends on how we understand ourselves! If we do not put any value on eternal life and try to align our moral compass according to the commandments of Christ and the teachings of the Church, we simply remain our own self-identified goal. In a day and age where our society is becoming more secularistic, where God is removed from our daily lives, and more people no longer have any concept or understanding of the transcendence, we have seen people getting more vocal to gain attention, but at the same time, more anxious, frustrated, and angry because they do not have any real hope. When a person’s self-worth is based on what he or she can do, especially through titles, prestige, power, influence, wealth, or any other vain means, one becomes focused on the matters of this world and how to live for the here and now with all possible means. If a person has no deeper understanding of who he or she is in the eye of the Creator, all that matters is the ability to create one’s destiny and self! Yet, the danger lies in the self-created destiny, identity, mission, purpose, and worth. For those who are chasing these things, these matters of the world are in a constant state of fluctuation because they are nothing but passing vanities, trends, and opinions. If there is no real anchored understanding of one’s self-worth and identity, one will chase after what is popularly accepted by others or how one would like to portray him or herself.
If we have no concept of anything higher than ourselves, we remain the sole creator of our own self! Even though that sounds empowering and encouraging, in reality, it will always leave us confused, unfulfilled, and empty. The most intimate and personal understanding of who we really are do not belong to us! Just as we did not come into being by ourselves, our self-worth, purpose, and mission are not simply ours. We were created for a higher purpose and end goal. Hence, our final destiny and finish line are not here and the matters of this earth! Our being and its innermost, intimate, and most personal identity were formed by God who willed and loved us into being, even before we were formed in our own mother’s womb. The Creator had to will and breathed life into the conjugal act for us to have life and come into being. Therefore, our soul belongs to Him and will ever yearn for His embrace. We remain restless, empty, and unfulfilled until we learn to seek, rest, and be loved by Him.
If we understand who we are in the eyes of God and what we are called to be, we cannot remain the same as we are or do whatever we want for our own sake! If we understand our identity as children of God, we would understand our true freedom and its duty and responsibility to allow the light of life within us to radiate, enliven, and share through our very own words and actions. If we know who we are, our scope of understanding and goal is no longer just for this world and its ever-changing trends, opinions, popularities, and thoughts because we truly belong to the One who loves us — and our destiny is with Him!
Furthermore, that also means that our ways of life have to reflect the eternal, transcendental, and theocentric values. Human or civic laws are not just to serve our own purpose to seek our hedonistic and shallow understanding of happiness to get to do whatever we want! If we truly understand true freedom is for the common and greater good of all, our laws have to reflect the necessity to protect the rights, dignity, and respect of all who are made the in image and likeness of God. Our society does not simply exist to serve our needs and enables us to do whatever we want, for our real freedom is not to be enslaved by the things of this world. We are called to transform and conform our social values according to what God and the Church taught us in the deeper understanding of stewardship. When we have the scope of eternal life, we understand our true freedom and the joy found in loving Him and our neighbors.
What does that mean? This conformity to the truth requires docility, obedience, and a genuine desire to listen, discern, reflect, and enter into prayer with God, in alignment with the magisterium and teachings of the Church, and listening to our very own voice of conscience (that is formed according to the truth). Too many times, too many people tend to only listen to their own voices, decide matters for their own benefit and advantages, and seek what is good for them here and now. In the day and age of immediate gratification, we have become less patient, considerate, and sacrificial, unwilling to die to ourselves and dislike making choices that are beyond what is good for us. If we are to fix our moral compass on what the Church teaches and what God has commanded us, we need to have the ability to make necessary sacrifices and be content with not having things our way!
What is our mission? To live as children of God, to be good stewards of His creation and the gifts entrusted to us, and to be dutiful and responsible in practicing our true freedom to shape, conform, and transform our world according to eternal values. What is our purpose? To choose what is right and just, to know who we are in His eyes, to seek the truth, and willing to make sacrifices to live in that truth. How about our self-worth? To grow in the vocation that God has for us, especially in loving Him above all things, to use the gifts to serve others, and not to be worried, held back, and worried about what to make of egocentric selves, what the world wants us to be, or what is popular. These three questions are extremely hard, and there will be a lot of self-dying sacrifices, choices, and decisions that are hard, unpopular, and unappealing at times. In order to grow into what God wants of us, it requires that we die to ourselves, truly listen, engage in prayer, be active in discernment, and embrace the personal desire to grow in holiness.
One cannot grow in the spiritual life if he or she does not want to be humble, persevere, and choose to be faithful to God even in hard times. He cannot be the center of our lives if we do not will to die to our self, to be willing to let go of lesser matters and appealing goods, and to make difficult choices to live for Him first and foremost! This is extremely hard and very counter-cultural because we are taught to only care about ourselves and what is best for us first. As a matter of fact, to put our egocentric self second and God first requires a lot of personal sacrifices, humility, and obedience. Over and over again, spiritual masters reminded us that the hardest part of the spiritual journey and real growth comes when we die to ourselves, be humble, and willing to be conformed to His will through proper discernment. Therefore, let us not lose heart but try our best to choose and desire holiness, the truth, and to love God above all things each and every day. There will be days when we are weak, when we fail or lose heart, but no matter what, let us seek, desire, and give our lives to Him totally and completely. Truly, to love Him, to be loved by Him, to embrace His commandments, and live in His eternal truths are our mission, purpose, and self-worth.