Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Your Personal Apostolate: Chapter Nine

A series of blogs presenting you the contents of the book, an award-winning love story for every soul.

Not sure what God has in store for you?
His plans are wondrous, loving and beautiful.

Accept Him, seek Him, love Him,
and return His love to those around you.

Prepare to be amazed, for
God is at work in you!

Chapter 9 ~ The Greatest Commandment

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end…And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:2-8

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. John 13:12-15

“Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” John 13:20.

Imagine in your mind what the scene was like as Jesus, a member of the Blessed Trinity, laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, and washed the feet of His Apostles. The Master became the servant when He lovingly placed Himself at the service of His creation. Once again, Jesus’ action was very contrary to the customs of that time. This was not lost on Peter, who stated “Lord, are you going to wash my feet? You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus would have it otherwise, and very clearly instructed everyone through all time with His words, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Jesus consistently served others throughout His life. He came to redeem and sanctify, and role modeled the proper etiquette God desires of all people, regardless of our era, race, culture, or social standing.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross”(Philippians 2:3-8).

So far in this book we have discussed recognizing and acknowledging God’s love for us. We highlighted the significant impact the personal apostolate of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had and continue to have on all humanity as each of us seeks to unite our actions with the Will of God. We examined the many ways God’s love entices us to faith. We also contemplated accepting His love in its many manifestations and the importance of loving Him in return. We considered the role of suffering in our lives, and how our sufferings and triumphs imitate Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Then we discussed the importance of living holy lives.

This closing chapter focuses on sharing God’s love with others, every day, moment by moment, through the work we do in our personal apostolate. In this way we fulfill God’s greatest commandment to love one another as He loves us. Multiple choices are integrated: acknowledging God’s love, accepting His love, loving Him in return, and loving others. In order for our discipleship to truly follow the Will of God, each of us must acknowledge the contribution that every person ever created makes through their very existence. To do so we must respect and defend every single person’s right to life. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Every person’s apostolate begins at the moment of conception. “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed” (Psalm 139: 13-16).

Before each of us was even born, we already began impacting the lives of others and contributing to their welfare. So much good is accomplished by our very existence! In macroscopic terms, our discipleships come to fruition through our roles as embryos, infants, children, adolescents, adults, and senior citizens. They encompass what we accomplish as students, patients, or retirees, while in training, through various occupations that are paid or unpaid, through volunteering, in sickness and in health. In microscopic terms our apostolate encompasses the many ways we serve God each and every day, from moment to moment.

While some of us love and serve others through what we are able to do physically, personal contributions are not limited to what can be seen by eyes, felt with hands, measured, heard, counted, or quoted. Our contributions may be tangible and have clearly visible results, or may have tremendous impact while remaining unseen. For example, people who are unable to care for themselves have great purpose and a vital apostolate. They provide love in many ways and contribute immensely to humanity. They accomplish great things through their circumstances because they teach us compassion as they accomplish the Will of God.

The effects of our apostolate do not have to be physically observable to be real. There are great contributions taking place all around us every day that cannot be seen. No one has ever seen God, yet He exists. His love is real. The effect He has on our lives is absolutely real. Just as real is His love resonating through the discipleship of each and every person He ever created. In His encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II stated, “The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur of the Father’s love, shows how precious man is in God’s eyes and how priceless the value of his life” 18.

The Christ-likeness of St. Therese of Lisieux provides us with a very powerful example of the effects our lives have as followers of Christ when we choose to live and serve in love. St. Therese wrote in Story of a Soul: “Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and most moble of all could not be lacking to it, and so I understood that the church had a Heart and that this Heart was BURNING WITH LOVE. I understood it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act… I understand that LOVE COMPRISED ALL VOCATIONS, THAT LOVE WAS EVERYTHING, THAT IT EMBRACED ALL TIMES AND PLACES…IN A WORD, THAT IT WAS ETERNAL!” 19 . Her vocation, her personal apostolate, was love.

In conclusion it bears repeating: you are very, very special to God. Every single person ever created is special to God! He loves each of us immensely. Imagine how you felt during the most loving moment you have ever had. Multiply that feeling by the largest number you can think of, and you still will not even come close to how much God loves each one of us. At conception each person is gifted by God with striking uniqueness, individual talents, traits, personalities, and an apostolate that changes through the life span as we develop and as our circumstances change. For the sake of our sanctity and the work we accomplish in our imitation of Christ, each of us must recognize, respect, and protect the uniqueness and mutual importance of every other person’s contribution as it was intended by God.

Everyone has something to contribute, for no one was ever created without a purpose. Through our apostolate we return our treasures of self to the infinitely loving God who gave them to us in the first place. We return love for love while serving Him and His people. Our presence, thoughts, desires, words, actions, and inactions give witness to God’s love in our world. May God Bless you for your efforts on His behalf and may your life bring God, you, and others great joy.

The Greatest Commandment: A Personal Reflection

I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the ninth grade. While preparing for this vital Sacrament, I went through a time of discernment to determine who my patron saint would be. I had no idea who to choose, and properly asked God who He wanted. The word “rose” repeatedly came to mind. I assumed that there is a St. Rose, discovered that to be true, and concluded that St. Rose must be my intended patron. However, the decision did not feel right, so I kept asking.
Shortly thereafter, I learned of St. Therese of Lisieux. She promised to continue her personal apostolate from heaven after her death. She said “I will let fall a shower of roses” and responds to prayers for her intercession by sending roses as a sign. Once I learned of her I found myself drawn to her in a very supernatural way. Certainly she was the one God chose to be my patron saint. On the glorious day of my Confirmation, I took St. Therese as my patron saint and friend in heaven.

St. Therese has touched my life in countless ways since. In the weeks before my father died, the scent of roses filled the air and I knew that a great trial was near. Years later I asked her to send yellow roses as a sign that my greatly anticipated first child was on his way. When I received a birthday card with a dozen yellow roses on the front, I knew I was expecting, and I was! When my son made his First Eucharist, he wore a yellow boutonniere on his suit to honor her, and to this day we consider yellow roses symbols of life and joy.

Before my marriage ended, I received several signs from St. Therese and knew something very significant was going to happen. I was comforted with the knowledge that she was present along with God to help, guide, and comfort me. As she promised, St. Therese was continuing her personal vocation of love from heaven. What great love and mercy God expresses to us through His people, including the Saints! What consolation to know that I have such a special ally in heaven.

The intervention of God, Our Blessed Mother, and Venerable Fr. Solanus on behalf of the injured motorcyclist mentioned in Chapter 6 is a powerful example of God’s love in action directly and indirectly. God intervened for the man because He loves him. Our Blessed Mother and Fr. Solanus helped the man because they chose to share God’s love. One man called 911 out of love. The people weeping on the sides of the road paid the price required of loving through their grief and compassion for the injured man. I prayed for the man and gave him my scapular in obedience to the call of love. The paramedics and the police came to his assistance because they loved.

The apostolate of each living person is in progress at this very moment. Just as we do not stay the same through our lives, our life’s work evolves as we seek to unite our wills to God’s promptings. Jesus’ apostolate evolved from growing in His mother’s womb through His infancy, childhood, young adulthood, and adulthood. He lived in obscurity throughout His life until becoming well known during the three years of His public ministry. He was loved and persecuted, popular and unpopular, loved and hated, returned to Jerusalem a hero at the age of thirty-three and was executed shortly thereafter. Several things remained constant through the different stages of Jesus’ life: He accomplished the Will of His Father and He served others with great love.

Our following of Christ encompasses what we do during the different stages of our lives, as embryos, babies, children, students, employed, unemployed, stay-at-home, religious, whether we are in transition between jobs or careers, whether we are healthy or not, able or disabled, and takes place as long as we live, regardless of our circumstances. Our efforts to increase in sanctity and share the love of God with one another through our discipleship not only benefits each of us individually, but benefits untold other people, including people we may never meet. As Father John A. Harden, S.J., S.T.D. stated on his audiotape, He Will Come Again to Judge the Living and the Dead “No human act is sterile. We are writing history for eternity” 20.

As tremendous beneficiaries of God’s love in so many diverse ways, through so many different people, so too are we called through our apostolate to bestow upon one another the love of God. So beautiful is His love that it will not be denied and can never be contained. God’s love is extremely contagious! “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Imagine the moment when you will one day stand before God and share with Him the many ways you loved Him in return, directly and by serving others throughout your life. How beautiful that moment will be!

The Greatest Commandment: For the Reader

How are you faithful to God’s greatest commandments to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

Most Compassionate and Loving God,
Please bless us
as we seek to recognize
the many opportunities we have
to grow closer to You
and to each other
during the joys and sorrows
of our lives.
Help us to accept
Your loving offer
of salvation and sanctification,
and guide us as we
serve each other
on the journey toward heaven.

Next: The Conclusion