If someone asked you today, “What is the most important thing in your life,” what would you say? There are lots of things important to all of us, but what is most important? Take a moment to think about that. It is easy to be distracted by our busy routines and the pressures to fulfill our responsibilities and plan for our future. However, what is our purpose for being on this earth? Are we here by accident or are we part of God’s plan? If God has a plan for us, what is it?
In today’s Gospel, the religious leaders tested Jesus. They wanted to know if he knew God’s plan. Jesus gives them the answer; “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as your self. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” We could say that all of God’s revelation depends on these two commandments. If no one observed these two commandments, God’s divine revelation would cease to have meaning. God’s Word has reached us because others have believed and lived it, even at the shedding of their own blood.
In the second reading from Paul to the Thessalonians, he says, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the Word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” Even though it was a hardship for them to receive the Word of God, the Thessalonians, “with joy from the Holy Spirit,” became models for other believers, which made it easier for Paul to preach. If there are no witnesses, preaching has little effect.
In October 2008, we were in Thessalonica with a group of pilgrims. We were also in Philippi where Paul was imprisoned and in Ephesus, Corinth, and other places where the Roman ruins consisted of, among other things, amphitheaters where Christians were martyred for the faith. Their faith was more important to them than their lives.
Now, what about us? Is it “in (God) that we live and move and have our being” as Paul says in Acts 17:28? Have we found our purpose in Him?
He has not given us the commandments as a means to dominate us, but as a means to guide us. And because He knows us and the strength of our nature He has made them commandments, not suggestions. We may think we know what is best for us, but if God is not in the picture we are only deceiving ourselves. At some point we all must surrender to the love of God. We must make a firm decision to follow Jesus as our Lord and to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.
Our temptation is to say, “Well then, what is the minimum I must do?” Of course that would be a mistake. If we are only interested in doing the minimum, we soon perceive the minimum only as an obligation and a burden which becomes too difficult to fulfill.
God has a wonderful plan for humanity in general and each of us individually, but He must be the most important part of that plan. The only way we will reach our potential for happiness is by drawing closer and closer to God who is the source of all love and all that is good. For this reason He has given us the Church and the sacraments as a source of grace. We have everything we need to become a saint, but it depends upon our desire, our free will.
Do you want to be a saint? Of course we all want to go to heaven, but do you want to be a saint now? God’s plan is that we be saints now; that we cooperate with His grace and live our lives in union with Him for our own sake and the good of the Church. It is in our decision to struggle to do the “Will of God” and our effort to be faithful that we are purified and become witnesses of what we believe. It is the will of God that we be purified now instead of after our death. The unfolding of the Kingdom of God depends on the sanctity of the baptized. St Therese, the Little Flower, once said, “The creator of the universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls.” It is not only our prayers that Our Lord needs, but also our faithfulness, our witnesses and our charity.
When something is important to us we invest in it. If you want to be a good student, you will study hard. if you want to be a good athlete, you will practice hard. How much more should be our concerned about being a good Christian, which has eternal consequences for our selves and the people we love, and the whole world.
To be a good Christian requires us to enter into a personal relationship with Our Heavenly Father by making a commitment to daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, living the sacramental life, continuing to be formed in the faith, and participating in our faith community by being good stewards of what we have received.
This relationship with God should influence every important decision we make. And this is not an obligation or a burden, but the proven path to real happiness, now and forever. God has a great plan and we all are part of that plan.