I’m a fan of Sister Ann Shields, Superior of the Servants of God’s Love, in Michigan, USA. For many years she has been well known as an author, speaker and evangelist. A couple of days ago I was browsing through some old Renewal Ministries newsletters, and came across this article of hers, which was originally a radio talk. It finishes up with a great quote from a homily given by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984.
Given the state of our society, with so many forces arrayed against the Gospel - the pace of life which has no time for silence or reflection, so many ‘voices’ crying for our attention, and the seduction of the media - it is very easy for each of us to be “lost in the shuffle.” In the world, little value is given to the individual; the attention is on success, power, accomplishment, wealth, and status. How much do we judge ourselves by such standards? Part of our discouragement, depression, and faintheartedness are a result of judging ourselves (and others) by the standards of the world rather than those of the Gospel.
A greater understanding of these truths will help us see our true condition before God:
1. You, personally, have infinite value. Christ died for YOU. He won eternal life for you by his death and resurrection and the fruitful seed of His life is given to you in your baptism.
2. This is true, though as an infant, you are totally dependent and have accomplished nothing in your few weeks/months of life. You can NEVER, no matter how long you live or what you accomplish, earn heaven and eternal union with God. It is a gift given to you by your Father in heaven. That is how much you are loved!
3. Even with this gift, we are wounded in our nature. This makes us self-focused and leads to sin. But as we turn and repent, God, in his mercy, restores us and we do not lose the inheritance given to us in Baptism.
4. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us daily that we are his temples and that absolutely nothing can separate us from him unless we choose to reject his gift. Even then, his mercy is so great that he will constantly hold out to us the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation.
5. Read and meditate on: Romans 6 and 8, Col. 1:1-21, Col. 2:8-15, Col. 3:1-4.
Recently, I came across a homily, given in 1984, by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Take time to reflect on it as well.
“God created each of us according to His will and this will is our prime origin. It is not just a remote and general will but a particular will for each one of us. However it may seem when viewed from outside, no one exists solely by chance. Each one has been willed by God and has his own proper place in life. There is, for each one, a meaning and a role in the universe and our lives will be all the more replete and happy the more we realize this meaning, the more we incorporate this will into our lives and are one with it . . . For one thing we can say that God has his own design for each person; each one is something special, not merely one example of a product reproduced by the million. Each one is unique, never to be repeated, and willed by God precisely as he is. That is why we say that God calls each of us by name—not just by a concept, but by a name that only this one individual knows and that belongs solely to him. For each one there is a special call. And only if we live attentively in conversation and dialogue with God can we know why he needs us in such an apparently insignificant position and why we are, precisely in that position, so immeasurably important. We need only recall that individuals who were apparently the most forgotten and insignificant in the world - a young woman in Nazareth, fishermen on the Lake of Genessaret - became immeasurably significant. It is not always so evident, yet God wants each one of us, he needs each one of us, so that his world may become what he wants it to be.” (Co-Workers of the Truth, Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, 1992, pg. 222)