Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Familiar Ideas  

I had heard it said many times before, but perhaps, because I just recently celebrated a birthday, a familiar idea really made a deep impression on me. In a book on parenting, I read the words, "You can live for yourself, or you can live for others." At some level, I have always understood the truth of those words, but for some reason, when I encountered the idea again this most recent time, I really had to think about how that applied to my life. How much of my life had been and continued to be a life pursued for myself? How many decisions do I make that only really consider the impact that my choice will have on me? Being married and a parent, one must think about others, but there is still quite a bit of my life, even indeed the parts which seem safe because of marriage and family concerns, in which I have quite a bit of room to be very selfish.

Moving from myself to others, my mind turned to examples of men and women who had lived for others. In recent history, we have our late Holy Father John Paul the Great who lived out his own writings in which he noted that a life of self-donation is the most authentic life. He left a powerful example by a life of service in which he gave of himself until his last breath. Throughout his life, he demonstrated another familiar idea which if one wants to lead, one must serve.

Another contemporary example is Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She is another example of a life lived for others. She simply gave of herself to help the men and women whom she found in her midst. Many make the point that she served the poor, as indeed she did as a specific mission of the religious order she founded, but she also served the entire world through her powerful example and words. It is interesting to note that although she did not seek to be a leader, she became one because of her service.

Of course, the example par excellence is our Lord Jesus Christ. He stated that His own mission was to serve and not to be served. He came to give his life as a ransom for many. He poured Himself out in service to those who He encountered, and, indeed, for the whole world through His Passion and Death. Just yesterday, I read chapter eight of St. Matthew's Gospel. In this chapter which follows the Sermon on the Mount, St. Matthew captures this idea of service for others by recording a number of Jesus' healings. Every part of that chapter is a story about Jesus healing someone or casting out a demon. It is as if, St. Matthew wants to make the point that Jesus did not simply preach a nice sermon about loving your neighbor, He lived it out completely in His giving of Himself for the sake of others.

All of these examples, point to the fact of how deficient I am in my living my life for others. I wondered what I could do about that. One answer came recently when it was suggested to me a way in which I can examine the past twenty-four hours of my life at the end of the day. There are, of course, many ways to perform a daily examination of conscience, but the one which was suggested to me appealed to me, because it is really quite simple and it is another familiar idea. The concept is that there is a hierarchy of love for people in my life. God is first, my wife is second, my daughter is third, family and friends are next, and I am last. The examen is to simply think about the times during the past day in which I have or have not maintained that hierarchy. How many times have I put myself first or put someone else ahead of God? Or are there times when I have kept everything in the right order? It has already proved to be quite fruitful in helping me to see where I am falling short in order that I can pray more specifically for the grace to overcome my selfishness in those areas. At least, I think that I am finding the areas which need to be targeted for work.

Posted by David at 8:00 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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