Bonus: Five years in and a Theology of the Person

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FIVE YEARS IN…..

                On June 16, 2017, I “celebrated” five years as a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church for the Diocese of Springfield, IL.  I put “celebrated” in quotation marks because that day was not a very good day in my life and in the life of my family.  The day before, we had a funeral for my niece, Jennifer, who died of a brain aneurysm while 7 1/2 months pregnant.  They were able to save the baby, a girl, but the damage to her brain was too great was her to survive, leaving her husband with three young children to raise on his own.  To top it all off, the day I was to celebrate five years would have been their ten year wedding anniversary.  So you will understand why this year was anything but celebratory.  What I can say about it is that it has been certainly reflective.

In light of tragedy, what we see reflecting back to us is our frailties being held up in front of us.  For me, those frailties were being held in the hands of my niece.  During the funeral, as I was looking down on her casket, I could see an image of her holding a box.  She opened the box and inside was a piece of paper.  On it was written a simple question:  “Do you believe in what you say or not?”  As I looked up, she looked at me with her chin in her chest, her eyebrows raised and her eyes looking up at me and she says “Well…?” and with that she was gone.  The question stayed with me ever since and it is the reason for this personal evaluation.

So, if I was to begin a personal reflection on the past five years, where would I start?  I start with her question:  Do I believe in what I say or not?  It is not so much in that I have doubts about my faith in God, in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church, but in the manner in which it has been presented to the faithful.  How we bring the faith to the faithful can make the difference between bringing people to God or just keeping them focused on man-made problems thinking they are signs from God.  How we present the faith is as much a reflection of ourselves as we do looking in the mirror.  It gives us an image of our soul; our true self.

When Jesus was asked what is the Greatest Commandment, he quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy:  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One!  You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.”  He then added something else:  “And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”[1]  If we look at these Commandments, they are a call for us to make the first move in loving God, others and ourselves.  Yet, how are we expected to love God and our neighbors as ourselves if we do not know HOW to love ourselves?

In order for us to love ourselves, we must first ask ourselves who we are.  Are we MAN? Are we a body?  Are we an individual? Are we a person?  How we define ourselves begins our identity.  So we begin to ask ourselves:  Are we MAN?  Man is merely the race of intelligent, erect biped mammals that are more advanced than other forms of life.  Are we a body?  That is just the structure by which MAN can operate on this planet.  Are we an individual?  Individuals have the capability to be unique from all others in order to show their importance over others; particularly those with whom they believe are inferior.

What I believe that we are, and what I believe God intended us to be, is called a person.  A person takes all those previous identifications (MAN, body, individual) and begins to develop a purpose outside of their own well-being.  For example, Webster’s Dictionary has a definition of a person as “one of the three modes of being in the Trinitarian Godhead as understood by Christians.”[2]  Each of the three prior identifications has the limitation of being focused on the self.   The person, on the other hand, is focused on the well-being of others as well as themselves.  These traits are what are in the Trinity, so therefore they should reside in us.  The person is the one concept of our being that connects the biological (MAN) with the mental (body), psychological (individual) and the spiritual.  How we become a person, the concept that God requires us to be, takes us to understand what God is asking us to be before we can try to understand how we can interact with each other in all four aspects?

These five years has been rather eventful.  This past year probably has been the most traumatic.  With two surgeries along with the death of my niece, my time in reflection has been more intense than it has ever been in my life.  Her message to me, “Do you believe in what you say or not” was not just a mandate for me.  It will be a mission of my ministry in developing this line of thought in developing the person as a whole in order to be a better member of society and, more importantly, a better child of God.  If we cannot understand who we are, we cannot be able to be ourselves among others.  So, I will, with the help of God, develop this Theology of the Person.  This will be an ongoing effort that I hope will enable those who feel that they are being pressured to become part of a group (no matter how large or small) before they are ready.  Being a person is to be mature, well-rounded and genuine.  The more genuine the person, the more genuine will the group become.  The more genuine the group, the better they can hear the voice of God calling them to do His will.  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst.”[3]

TO BE CONTINUED……

[1] Mt. 22:3-40.

[2] www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/person.

[3] Mt. 18:20.

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