It is the constant trip-up in the Christian life: The quest for greatness. We all crave greatness because we were created to participate in God’s great work of art unfolding all around us.
In moments of hastiness, impatience, and fear, we shape and we baptize our own versions of greatness. “I want to be a great saint,” we say. We often fall into pride and ultimate unfruitfulness, but it is so important that we always get up and begin again.
Not using the gifts God has given us is the greater tragedy and the greater sin. Not only do we deprive the world of God’s life flowing through us, but we are also stunted emotionally and spiritually by our own damming of our creativity.
“The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name,” John Paul II writes. This is our greatness and the only greatness that has any worth. The rest is like grass that springs up in the morning and by evening withers and fades.
Pope Benedict is often quoted as saying, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” Jason Craig, editor of the blog Those Catholic Men, clarifies that the Pope never actually said these words. We should have known; they are much to pithy and Benedict was never known for his meme-worthy musings. The closest sentiment to the misquoted one is found in encyclical letter, Spe salvi. Therein, Pope Benedict writes:
“Man was created for greatness – for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched …”
The kind of greatness he speaks of here is unmistakable. It is the greatness of being called by God to live eternally. Those who seek personally defined versions of greatness do not seek greatness at all. They seek themselves.
“We crave greatness for our lives and God asks us to become little,” writes Servant of God Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House. “To pass through the door that leads to his kingdom, we must go down on our knees. Paradoxically, if we do so, we will find ourselves growing in stature, for ‘no eye has seen, no eye has heard what God has prepared for those who love him.’”
Sometimes our gifts are obvious. Other times, we pray and agonize and find it difficult to find the word the Lord seeks to speak through us. We can be sure, though, that he has not left a single one of his children untouched by his Spirit. When we are baptized, he pours his life liberally into our beings. The key is consecrating our lives over and over to God and our lives will be deeply satisfying and fruitful.
Here is a traditional, simple prayer composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (a great place to start):
“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, thou hast given me: I surrender it all to thee to be disposed of according to thy will. Give me only thy love and thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more.”
Constant discernment is required to live a fruitful Christian life, but this discernment must be a living and breathing discussion. A pouring-out of our hearts before the one who made them. “Heart speaks unto heart,” as Bl. John Henry Newman always said.
God is the only great one. He sees fit that we get to participate in his projects and, because he is a good father, he lets us “help Daddy” and look upon the work of our hands with joy.
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