Me, myself and I : Can we really adopt this as Catholics?
We live in a culture where people are most concerned about themselves and not those around them. It is as if we are becoming more selfish than self-giving as a society. I am being very open here as I write this. I increasingly see a tendency in young people ,like myself, to always focus on what they want and not on what others need. I hear them say things like “ I want to focus on myself and I don’t want to have the burden of focusing on others”. This I hear most frequently in relation to the topic of marriage and children. Many young people feel that it is a burden to have other people needing you. Nonetheless, this way of thinking extends to all parts of their life decisions and personality. Although, it is very important to take time for self care and a focus on our wellbeing and Interests. I feel that an obsessive focus on the ‘I’ can lead us away from what it means to be a follower of Christ. This is what I would like to discuss in this blog.
There are 4 classes of love according to Greek thinkers which are ‘Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape’. Storge is the love we have for our family (familial love), animals and nature. Philia is the love we have for our friends. Eros is a passionate love that we experience in romance. Agape is the highest form of love when a person is willing to give up what they have for another. We talk often about the different types of love in relation to the love to which we should progress in a marital relationship. However, Christian love is a greater call. To be a Christian means to love beyond expectation since the call of a Christian is bigger, as He who called us loves beyond measure. Thus, regardless of if a person is our brother, mother, father, sister, spouse, children or neighbour, we are called to love them with the unconditional love of Christ.
Jesus said “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you . . . Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:17-18, 20).
Jesus calls us to love one another despite the hatred and persecution we may face. We love despite the arrows that may come our way. This is AGAPE… to love and give up things in the face of challenge. That is what the early christians did. The same we are called to do today. Just because we live in the 21st century, it doesn’t mean that Jesus is not expecting this from us. Rise up and care about others and not just about yourselves !
Love through truth.
Why is it that we as Christians are called to this kind of a deep love? Why is it that we are called to lay down our lives for our neighbour? Why is it that the Catholic Church upholds the heroic act of St Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life so that a Jewish camp mate ,in Auschwitz, could live? It is because we are called to be Christ to others. We are not meant to be ordinary beings. We are meant to be bearers of Christs’ love to everyone we see. This is precisely the reason why we can’t simply focus on ourselves. For a Christian it can never be ‘me, myself and I’ because he/she carries the name of Christ. It is Jesus who we proclaim to believe in, when we label ourselves to others as a Christian, which is why it is such a pity that we are not even trying to be like Jesus!
In the face of the world which promotes a selfish culture, the Catholic Church calls us to swim against the tide.And when people question why we are so self-giving we are called to echo the words of St Maximilian Kolbe “ I am a Catholic…”
The church will not grow if we focus on our gain!
The tendency to focus only on ourselves I see within the church too. Now, the catholic church as an institution is the largest charitable organisation in the world. Thus, I am not saying that it is the church herself that is adopting the ‘me, myself and I’ vibe. It is the individuals within the church that seem to be doing this.
I often see a competition within different ministries in the church. Certain individuals get very upset if someone else is using their talents and flourishing in the ministry. These individuals will sometimes do whatever they can to prevent a person growing in their role. I have never understood this! It is as if they are afraid of losing their position. Is our faith all about positions and power? Absolutely not!
The church is not a mere human institution to be fighting over positions! This is Christ’s body! Now, within the church there is a hierarchy of the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests, which is to be respected ,since Jesus instituted it in this way through the apostles, to be our guide. Similarly, a hierarchy and an organisational structure is naturally present in any lay ministry in the church. However, this isn’t meant to be a power hungry game. We gather in a ministry to work for the betterment of Christ’s kingdom. This isn’t a show about ‘Me’. Everyone’s talents should be respected. Everyone should be given the chance to grow. This may mean that one day you need to move aside and let another take your role. This shouldn’t bother us because it was never about us. Shouldn’t this other person be given the same opportunity as you, to do great things for Jesus? Shouldn’t everyone get a chance?
Friends, for the church to grow and to build up the kingdom of God, you cannot adopt a ‘Me, Myself and I’ culture. You must see the gifts of others. You must provide the opportunity for these individuals to identify their calling in Christ and help them achieve it. A confluence of talent, dedication and faith of people of varying abilities is what leads to a thriving church !
Let’s take a leaf out of St John Paul II’s life.
A saint that has influenced me a lot in my life thus far is John Paul II. I remember entering St Peter’s Basilica and looking earnestly for JPII’s tomb, which is also an altar in the basilica. I remember the feeling I experienced when my eyes fell upon the altar with the inscription ‘Sanctvs Ioannes Pavlvs II’. I felt a connection, a skip in my heartbeat. There he was! The man that I call my best friend. A man I look up to in the mass of saints in the catholic church as my hero.
The most attractive thing about St John Paul II is his embodiment of the love of Jesus. JP II loved everyone, young and old, healthy or weak, believer or non-believer. He knew how to give to others his care, his love and his time. JP II was the first of the popes to portray a missionary zeal by travelling the world. He went everywhere around the world in the footsteps of Peter the fisherman. The papacy of JP II touched the hearts of the world. JP II set the example for the popes after him. The reason why Pope Francis is also a travelling Pope is because JP II paved this way of ministering to the flock of Christ. Imagine if he decided to keep to himself in the Vatican since it is more comfortable than always travelling. Would peoples hearts have been touched? Would millions of young people have embraced the Catholic faith if JP II had not given everything he had for others?
When we live our lives for others, in and through the love of Christ, we gather up more for the Kingdom of God. This is what we are called to do! We will never be able to such great things if we focus on the ‘I’ obsessively.
A missionary zeal.
I always say that when we know Jesus , our hearts beat for Him. When we haven’t talked to Jesus in a while, our hearts ache for His presence. When we have this relationship with Jesus, we have a natural tendency to give this love and knowledge to others.
Imagine a cup being filled with water soo much that the cup can no longer contain the water. It automatically spills everywhere and continues to spill until you stop pouring. The relationship with Jesus is exactly like this. We cannot contain the love we receive from Jesus so it spills into every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us.
Thus, those that come to know Christ are filled automatically with a missionary zeal. This zeal may look different in different people but it is there in all of us. Precisely because of this, we cannot as Christians who have tasted Jesus adopt the ‘me, myself and I’ culture. A christians’ call is a radical one. A radical call to a Love in the way that Christ did. This is how christianity spread around the world. The apostles and disciples were filled with such a radical love that they cared more about the kingdom of God than themselves. So much so that they were willing to lay down their lives. They wouldn’t have been able to do this if they had not known Jesus.
What do I say to conclude? Yes, we need time for ourselves, to take care of our health and mental wellbeing. God doesn’t ask us to not take focus on ourselves at all. However, when we retreat away to focus on ourselves, we are called to give of ourselves and love others more out of this rejuvenation. We are called to adopt the heart of Jesus and bring it into our lives. When we do this we cannot but love and give In the way that Christ did. Thus, as a christian we cannot ever be all about ‘Me, Myself and I’. If so, are we really living up to our name as a Christian?!