Spirituality for Today – Summer 2017 – Volume 21, Issue 5


Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

No matter where one looks, nature is fulfilling its potential. Grass, trees, flowers, and all things that grow and bloom are on full display. Not so for humans. One can think of the springtime of life as a time of growing and active youth, pregnant with freshness and becoming – but not, particularly, a time of fulfillment. The latter years of the whole of one's life seem more appropriate to musings on the topic of fulfillment. Yet, fulfillment is an accomplishment that can apply to any stage of life and to numerous areas of human endeavor. In the final analysis, the ultimate application of the theme of reaching a sense of fulfillment in life is in the mystery of the soul's approaching the Judgement Seat of God and offering what one has made of his life.

A few years before the end of his life in 1966, the English author Evelyn Waugh completed his trilogy, Sword of Honour. Among the themes of his work is that God has a mission for each person to fulfill. The protagonist, Guy Crouchback, a devout Catholic, marries a beautiful and vivacious woman who soon tires of her somewhat contemplative husband, divorces him, and was off to a profligate existence. The series (in a nutshell) finds the saddened Guy finding renewed meaning in life through his service in the Second World War. Yet, his noble and high-principled actions produced a lessened effect because of his disappointment of the motivations of some within the officer corps. At war's end, he returns to discover his wife, impregnated by another officer, begging to be taken back. In an act of Christian compassion and love, he does just that for her. Waugh writes of Guy, "in a world of hate and waste, he was being offered the chance of doing a single small act to redeem the times." Could it be he was fulfilling his mission in life?

Selfless acts, rooted in faith, easily could baffle the modern cultural ideology. Referencing Waugh's work in a recent article for The Catholic Thing, author Casey Chalk comments on such actions, "Without Christ, the world simply cannot understand a choice of quiet humility, suffering, and self-gift, with little worldly gain" An illustration of the importance of seeking to increase Jesus's teaching into our minds and hearts and to live by it is found in the Beatitudes in the gospels of Mathew and Luke. The "blessings" declared by Jesus can be understood as "fulfillments" in our lives. In Mathew, they are stated as being, poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, and enduring persecution. Following Christ is the way to fulfill our desire to be close to God and to be "blessed" in life. The Beatitudes expressed qualities were opposed to the popular virtues of the Jewish and Greco-Roman world. No wondrous epiphany is necessary to become aware that the Beatitudes also are in opposition to today's values.

The first common mistake to get rid of is that mankind consists of a great mass of religious people and a few eccentric atheists. It consists of a huge mass of worldly people, and a small percentage of people deeply interested in religion and concerned about their own souls and other peoples'.

George Bernard Shaw

People are encouraged to be self-consumed, to be overly assertive, to possess a disdain for the opinions of others, to seek their own desires above all, to adopt a threatening pose before another's concern over lifestyle choices, to judge personal relationships by personal gain, and to be self-worshipping and thus to be fulfilled in one's worldliness – but not to do much to benefit the world. A daunting task has been placed before the Christian in this beginning stage of the 21st Century – and yet not that different from any other age. The Christian still must endure persecution and rejection, still must try to reach a people living in darkness with the light of the gospel, and still must fight the sins within and the sins without by striving to lead as holy a life as one is capable of doing.

One should not be surprised that to reach fulfillment in life calls one to empty one's self in the love of Christ. As Christ conquered the influences of evil and death by his divine grace and mercy, the Christian, through faith, must tap into Jesus' power to courageously bring redemption to the world. Henry James said, "Life is nothing – unless heroic and sacrificial." In Christ, we find fulfillment not in accomplishments defined by the catalogue of achievements (by and for one's self), but in the experience of serving God through the love of neighbor manifested through countless acts of kindness and mercy. Imbued with this attitude, one understands true fulfillment in one's way of living every day and doing that which may redeem these times.