In this series of blogposts about discernment, we continue to look at our life through a storytelling lens…beginning with ourselves as the co-protagonist of our lives (co-protagonists with God).
Who am I as the protagonist of my story? Who am I, really? What are the key events that have shaped my life? What important choices have I made so far? What are my deepest desires around which I want to base my decisions, plan my future? What do I consider my successes? my failures?
Each of us is a son or daughter of our families, and members of the human family. If we have been baptized, we also belong to the family of God, the Church. We are sons and daughters of God—adopted into God’s life.
And if we able to honestly and realistically look at ourselves (and this is not easy!) we will recognize great beauty and potential, but also great flaws and woundedness. We will see greatness and pettiness, openness to grace and attraction to sin. We will recognize that we carry both love and pride in our hearts, selfishness and generosity.
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I used to not know this. As a teenager, I used to relegate the Redemption—Jesus’ suffering and dying—as important background to my life. (Forgive me, Lord!) After all, I was baptized as an infant years ago, and I was grateful that I had been redeemed. But now I was on my journey toward holiness, and I didn’t need to keep going back to those ideas of conversion, sin, mercy, forgiveness, Redemption…
I look back and chuckle at how clueless I was—about myself, about human nature, and about my relationship with God. (One proof of God’s infinite mercy is that I’ve grown beyond this cluelessness!)
Saint Paul—one of the greatest saints ever—wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Saint Paul’s entire life was shaped around the merciful love of Christ—the merciful gaze of Jesus as he forgave Paul for helping to stone Saint Stephen and persecute his first followers, the mercy of Jesus that revealed to Paul God’s great love for him in Christ. This was the merciful love that Paul constantly preached.
You might say that Paul needed conversion, but he wrote this years later, after he had already spent years of his life preaching Christ all over the world.
No matter where we are on our journey, even if we are baptized, live our faith in a dynamic and vital way, and earnestly seek God’s will, we will always, constantly, be in need of the mercy and grace of God to live out our truest identity—as human beings, as children of God.
This is where we need to start in our discernment, because the experience of God’s mercy is the foundation of our relationship with God. God creates us and loves us gratuitously: we cannot possibly ever do anything that would “earn” us God’s love. It’s in the midst of our unworthiness and even our sinfulness that we discover God’s immense love for us. God’s merciful love becomes the bedrock of our relationship with God!
Pope Francis, in his letter officially announcing the Year of Mercy (from Dec. 8, 2015-November 30, 2016), says this eloquently:
“Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us… Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
Answer the questions at the beginning of this blog post:
- What key events have shaped my life?
- What important choices have I made so far?
- What are my deepest desires around which I want to base my decisions and plan my future?
- What do I consider my successes? my failures?
- Who am, really?