Like most people I have wondered not just how life began, but why it began. There currently are, and have been, billions of people on this planet. Do they all have a purpose? Do they all question why they exist? Does a person who lives in poverty and enslavement under a brutal dictator question his or her purpose. Do doctors and scientists who are probing new boundaries still contemplate the mystery of it all?
From a young age, I have always believed in the Christian faith and have never doubted my belief in Jesus Christ. As a practicing Catholic, I still do not. But merely believing doesn’t mean understanding what you’re to do with that faith as a believer. This mystery is what caused me to study psychology both as an undergrad and graduate student. It’s what motivated me do complete a second Masters Degree, twenty-five years after my first, in Sacred Scripture. It’s was caused me to go on a self imposed retreat in at the Pecos Monastery in New Mexico after my father died. It’s what inspires me even today to read great thinkers from Aristotle to St. John of the Cross.
I recently had dinner with an incredibly nice man in his forties who is undergoing radiation treatment after having his cancerous prostate removed. I was in awe of his attitude and courage. It was a wonderful and fun dinner, and I hope to have many more with him. He is a true inspiration. After dinner, I began to think once again about what the purpose of it all is, and how I fit into the “grand scheme.” I had forgotten how this question nagged at me after my third and forth heart procedures.
I knew my father’s side had terrible genes. I had lost uncles and cousins in their forties and fifties to coronary artery disease. It didn’t surprise me, therefore, that I had to have four stents implanted in all three of my major arteries when I was 54. My family was understandably worried, but I was calm. I made jokes in the pre-op and recovery rooms to try to put them at ease. Somehow I was certain that all would be ok. I believed that if the surgery failed, I would move on to a greater place and be with God. And if I was wrong, and there was no God, I wouldn’t know. Three years later, when I had my third and fourth procedures I felt the same way; but, after my recovery, as I started to settle into a more permanent retirement, I began to wonder if I was still in a position to contribute? Could I make a difference? Did I have a gift? How could I determine what it was and would I be able to share it? Throughout my business career, I was blessed to be in a position to help create jobs, redevelop inner cities, and to teach others how to rebuild after catastrophes. What now?
I write this, because I really don’t know the answer. Like so many of my friends and family members I continue the search – which perhaps is the answer. I love reading 1 Corinthians 12-14, which discusses the gifts of the Spirit (see below), and makes it clear that whatever our particular gift is contributes to the whole. Paul, a brilliant disciple who wrote this letter to the Corinthians within a mere twenty-five years after Christ’s death and resurrection, beautifully articulates the many gifts of the Spirit. I can’t possibly say this better than him, so I have posted below excerpts from these chapters, which I urge you to read slowly and contemplatively.
1 Corinthians, Chapters 12-14 (from the New Jerusalem Bible, emphases added):
Chapter 12 . . . .” 4 There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit;
6 There are many different forms of activity, but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all.
7 The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one is to be used for the general good.
8 To one is given from the Spirit the gift of utterance expressing wisdom; to another the gift of utterance expressing knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit;
9 to another, faith, from the same Spirit; and to another, the gifts of healing, through this one Spirit;
11 But at work in all these is one and the same Spirit, distributing them at will to each individual. . . . 30 Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all of them speak in tongues and all interpret them?
31 Set your mind on the higher gifts. And now I am going to put before you the best way of all. . . . (Chapter 13) . . . .1 Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a
2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing.
7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.
13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love . . . . (Chapter 14) . . . . 1 Make love your aim; but be eager, too, for spiritual gifts, and especially for prophesying. . . . ”
© August 27, 2013 James Stuckey