Spirituality for Today – August 2008 – Volume 13, Issue 1


By Rev. Mark Connolly

Recently, while I was convalescing, a psychiatrist friend of mine from St. Elizabeth's in Washington came to visit me. He had just attended the funeral of Tim Russert. He was going on about the congregation, the mixture of haves and have-nots, the famous and the not so famous, even the rich and the poor. What he singled out as a common characteristic of so many of the people who were there in the Church, Holy Trinity, was the tremendous amount of stress that so many of them seemed to have on their faces. And so, that sparked my own thinking and I have dedicated this article to the subject of stress and the purpose God had in mind in putting us on this earth.

A photo of a man with his head down in a feeling of stressStress has been called the silent killer. It has been written about in stories and in literature for centuries. It contributes to our sense of anxiety, our sense of depression, our sense of frustration. It would be wonderful if we had a pill that can eliminate stress or keep all friction to a fraction, but we don't. The one antidote that has proven effective against stress is the element of personal prayer and recognizing what you are in the sign the sight of God - that you are a sacred person.

If you go back into the Gospels, you will find that Christ made it very clear what our purpose in life should be. If you recall the Gospel scene when Christ was lost in the temple and then found, one explanation He gave to His mother was "did you not know that I must be about the business of My Father in Heaven." That applies to us also. If Christ went throughout his life feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, that is what he expects us to do in our relationship with others. We have to bring the Gospel of love or the business of love into our relationships with others.

St. Paul summed this up centuries ago when he said, "whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it for the honor and glory of God." That is our business of vocation on earth.

The second lesson from the life of Christ took place after Christ has cured the ten lepers and all of them walked away with the exception of one to thank Him. The lesson that Christ was telling us is that you have to be that one person who gives thanks to God by the actions of your life. We might have beautiful homes, we might have a healthy stock portfolio, but if we are not doing the work of Christ, we will never achieve the purpose God had in mind by putting us on this earth.

The third part in the life of Christ that all of us have to keep in mind to make sure we never lose sight of our purpose and keep stress to a minimum took place a few minutes before Christ died. In one of His seven last words he simply said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." All of us came into the world without two nickels to rub together. All of us are going to be back to God without two nickels to rub together. There is no question about it, Christ wants you to be happy and have material blessings in as much as you work hard for what you have and you deserve everything you get. But at the hour of our death, if we have been living a purpose-filled life, we can simply say, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit."

There are some beautiful quotations concerning the purpose of our life and the writings of Abraham Lincoln. At one time he said, "I will continue to do the best I can, and if in the end what I am doing is wrong, ten angels living on a pin saying I was right, won't make any difference."

If you read the writings of George Barnard Shaw, he has a wonderful quotation concerning the purpose of our life. He said, "this is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, and not complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy, those people who have that mentality will find great purpose in their lives."

Stress is always going to be a problem, but it is going to be a greater problem if we fail to use the components of spirituality, personal prayer and an awareness of how sacred you are in the sight of God. Christ went through agonies, so will you but, as long as you learn that "not by bread alone does man live, but by the word of God" and as long as you realize that through your spirituality, your life will have great purpose.

St. Augustine summed it up even more beautifully when he said, "you have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts will not rest until they rest in You."