Spirituality for Today – Spring 2018 – Volume 22, Issue 3

United We Can

Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

One essential lesson from the liturgical celebrations of this time of year is that success in life is the result of unification. Some time ago, I read an article that noted the requirement of a cooperative effort for truly human activity to take place. This fact was expressed metaphorically through the action of a man chopping wood with an axe. What was posited was that one can speak of the man chopping wood or that the axe was chopping the wood, but the work was accomplished by the instrumentality of both the man and the axe functioning as a unified entity and not singularly. The man could not chop the wood without the axe and the axe could not chop the wood without the mental and physical participation of the man. The task required both human effort and the application of the proper tool in order to complete the job.

The Great Commandment tells us about the necessity of love being interwoven among God, neighbor, and self. This interaction is the method by which a human being reaches the zenith of living the life God desires of His creation. Love of God is expressed in the love shown to others. Then, personal concern over our spiritual and mental attitude is an issue important to beginning each day. What is meant is that the development of a growing self-understanding of both the positive and the negative aspects of our personalities bodes well for our relationship with God and others. If one is thoughtful, the attainment of reflecting the best of ourselves and governing the worst is possible. This awareness teaches us the skills needed to follow the path toward reaching the Kingdom of God and to be judged as one meriting inclusion in that Kingdom. Greatness within an individual is found in humility and service.

If I could give you information of my life, it would be to show you how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do, in His service, what he has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.

Florence Nightingale

What are we to pursue and what are we to avoid? Turning to the missionary letters of Saint Paul, he tells his co-worker, Timothy to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness and he advises the church in Colossae to avoid immorality, passion, evil desires, greed, anger, fury, malice, slander, obscene language, and lying. In the complexities of human nature, often, what seems to be obvious is not always so obvious. The simplicity of "doing good and avoiding evil" becomes a complicated and confusing task. Yet, Jesus taught in a simple language that makes what we need to pursue and what we need to avoid clear and unequivocal. As Shakespeare wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves," (Julius Caesar I, ii, 140-141). Our struggle with temptation and sin is one of our free will and conscience facing the choice of fashioning our life influenced by God's grace or trying to manipulate God's will according to our desires. Sometimes what we wish can blind us to what we need. In fostering a growing devotion to Christ, our wishes may coincide with our needs. Strengthening our faith will provide us with a straight, uncluttered path; faith is a both a light within us and a light for us that simplifies the direction we must take to eternal life.

I have used the pronoun "our" purposefully in this article about the importance of the unity of the faithful. Although each of us possesses a unique faithfulness to Our Lord, living that faith creates a mission that seeks unity with others in a common faith. Like Saint Paul, we are sent to proclaim the Good News. An illustration of faith seeking unity is found in an article by Paul Nguyen Hoai Duc, a former Communist officer in Vietnam, regarding time spent with Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, "One day he showed me a letter from a man named Vinh. That man received a jail sentence for corruption, and he had been placed in the same cell as Archbishop Thuan to spy on him and report to the government. In the end, however, overcome by Thuan's faith life and his friendship. Vinh confessed to him his true mission. Upon his release some time later, Vinh joined the Catholic faith and received baptism. A few years after his [Thuan} release, I [Nguyen Hoai Duc] asked to resign from my post. On April 19, I was baptized and became a child of God. It all happened thanks to Archbishop Thuan. He was the solid sturdy bridge that made possible my journey toward becoming a citizen of justice, a citizen of the eternal kingdom." [Source: Columbia, September 2017] United we can stand as an invitation to life in Christ.