A basic grasp of one’s identity-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Saturday, October 6, 2012
THE news all over tri-media this week has been about COCs and election hopefuls, and cybercrimes.
During the feast of St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face celebrated at the Carmel Chapel last October 1, 2012, newly ordained priest, Rev. Fr. Roy Christian D. Gesulgon of the Diocese of Bacolod had a most insightful homily which hopefully all aspirants to a seat in government could reflect on!
“The Commemoration of Saints is a practice in the Catholic tradition of calling to mind the life of a saint for the faithful to emulate and learn from. In a world that is impoverished in terms of providing the young with models of heroic virtues and ideals of human greatness, the lives of the saints afford us a glimpse of who we really are and what we are capable of doing because of faith. The saints and the example of their lives remind us of our identity and how this identity is expressed as witness vis-a-vis the world.”
“Sadly, however, a basic grasp of one’s identity is not that basic for most of us anymore. We have become complicated, too sophisticated even… to be comfortable and be content with the basics. The problem of our age is that we have lost the simplicity for the appreciation of the basics and so in turn have lost the anchor which gives meaning and grounding to our lives. We have become too concerned with the add-ons of life, believing that these define who we are. We accumulate. We attach things to ourselves as if these earthly goods make us who we are. The 'I am' for most of us has now become a question of wealth, fame, honor, possession of specialized skills or power and influence– making in turn the 'I am' no longer a question of identity but a question of possession, of accumulation”.
“The Church, being a Mother that she is to us, is there to remind us of the basics of who we really are and what our identity is all about. Mother Church presents to us a saint whose understanding of WHO SHE IS, of her identity, has become a key for her to the understanding of the Divine Mysteries and of human existence. We commemorate, St Therese of Lisieux, also known as Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, recently proclaimed as Doctor of the Church.
But how did she do it? How did she arrive at an understanding of the mysteries of God and of human existence that has earned her the acclaim of the universal Church?
The clue to Therese’s life-changing discovery is all about a basic truth that most of us have forgotten or more or less have ignored. Therese’s spirituality is anchored on her re-discovering her identity as a child of God. Commenting on Therese’s “spiritual childhood”, Blessed John Paul II notes, “What truth of the Gospel message is really more basic and more universal than this: God is our Father and we are his children?"
For Therese, hers was a journey that started in the rediscovering of this basic truth. She is a CHILD OF GOD—a child who is like “a little flower” in the garden of her Heavenly Father. And, it is only from this deep appreciation of her relation with the Father that her mission, her “little
way” begun to take shape. As a matter fact, a few months before her death, Therese was quoted as saying, “I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission to make God Loved as I love him, to teach souls my little way.” When her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, asked her, “And what is this little way you want to teach souls?” Therese answered, “It is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.”
“The way of spiritual childhood of trust and absolute surrender” is best expressed in the image of a trusting child ever open to the lessons given by the Father. In this regard, Therese has always felt that the words of Scripture are fulfilled in her: "Whoever is a little one, let him come to me.... For to the one who is little mercy shall be shown". This Therese knew fully well as she was convinced of being instructed by the Divine Teacher Himself whom she describes in her autobiography as "the Doctor of Doctors" (Ms A, 83v), who has hidden from the wise and prudent, the secrets of the Kingdom and have in turn deigned to reveal them to babes (Ms A, 49r; cf. Lk 10:21-22).”
The Universal Church, through the words of Blessed John Paul II explains that at “the core” of Therese’s message is “actually the mystery itself of God-Love”…and that “at the summit, as the source and goal, is the merciful love of the three Divine Persons.” The then Holy Father adds that “at the root” of Therese understanding “is the experience of being the Father's adoptive children in Jesus…the most authentic meaning of spiritual childhood, that is, the experience of divine filiation, under the movement of the Holy Spirit…in this spiritual childhood one experiences that everything comes from God, returns to him and abides in him, for the salvation of all, in a mystery of merciful love..” Ultimately for Therese then “…the eminent power of this merciful love” is in a way “in the very heart of the Church, where she found her vocation as a contemplative and missionary.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that this understanding of “spiritual childhood” by Therese finds a striking parallel in Jesus’ own Divine Filiation expressed concretely in our Lord’s complete surrender to the Father’s will as attested to by the Scriptures. Like Jesus who earned the recognition of the people of his time to be someone “who has done all things well,” Therese following the promptings of the Divine Master, has likewise done all things well. Therese’s formula gives us a spirituality that is accessible to all: “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily well out of LOVE.” This is her “little way,” a way of loving in the concrete circumstances of daily living. For Therese, LOVE can be expressed in a gesture of kindness to someone in need, LOVE can be a prayer said for the conversion of a criminal, LOVE can be an act of obedience to the counsel of a superior, LOVE can also be a little note well-written for a friend, or LOVE can even be in the form of a simple smile to warm people’s hearts. For Therese, all opportunities that come our way, day-in and day-out, are actually occasions for holiness calling us to do “little acts of Love.” Therese in this regard left us with a beautiful image of “strewing flowers” for us to appreciate how the little acts of love that we do can make our day. Therese once wrote, “but how will she [the little child] prove her love since love is proved by works? Well the little child will strew flowers… and will sing in her silvery tones the canticle of Love.”
In summary, Therese reminds us that it is this mission of LOVE rooted in our identity as God’s beloved that we are called and are capable of loving. This is our VOCATION, the vocation to Love, which is at the core of every vocation in the Church. Once, when Therese was meditating,
she was seized by a spiritual insight, a discovery which caused her to burst in outmost joy.
She wrote of that incident in the following words, “Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and most noble of all could not be lacking to it, and so I understood that the Church had a heart and that this heart was burning with Love. I understood it was love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that Love comprised ALL vocations that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places…in a word, that it is eternal! Then in
the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love…my vocation, at last I have found it…my vocation is LOVE.”
May by Therese’s example, we be able to reclaim the identity that we have most of the time taken for granted, that we realize once more our being sons and daughters of the Father with “humility, trust and total surrender,” that with confidence we may finally rest content in this basic truth of our identity, knowing that we have a Father who loves us and that we are his beloved. Only in this way, like Therese, will all the occasions and events of our lives become opportunities for us to “repay love for love.”And so, now that love has found us, may we remain in love. St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, pray for us.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 07, 2012.