Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
When I was in business I attended a couple of these motivational conferences where the speaker would stand up in front of all of us and proclaim that if we could imagine it we could realize it. I was raised as a skeptic and decided I saw through this chicanery for what it was: someone telling people exactly what they wanted to hear, so that the messenger could make a lot of money. Obviously, if I imagined myself as the most successful creative director/designer/millionaire, it wouldn't just happen, even with a modest fanfare. Many people fall into this trap today in the development of new Gospel interpretations, sometimes called the Gospel of Prosperity. God wants you to be happy and rich. I want to be happy and rich. All I have to do is unite my will to God's, and the resulting synergy will go even beyond my imagination.
On the other hand, however, many people have adopted an unintended effect of the Reformation which would render our efforts futile and without merit. God is in charge of everything: I am absolutely powerless. This is usually how people feel able to blame God for all the bad things that happen to them and to the world.
As usual, when you see the two extremes, the answer is most often found in between. God gave us an active intellect (not passive) and an informed (by memory) free will that calls us to both act as individual persons with our rights and obligations, as well as respond to our desire for the good by seeking the meaning of Goodness in God. Made in the image of God, we are also causes in the creative development of God's Kingdom. A beloved professor in the seminary put it simply in one, profound question: "You may be able to convince me that our complex brain may somehow be the result of a long process that began with the chance collision of two primordial bugs in the ooze... but how do you explain Beethoven?"
Stay with me here; I have a specific purpose for this thought process and then a challenge for you.
You might then say, "This is all well and good, but I am not Beethoven." It is here that I want to confirm in you the knowledge that God doesn't withhold anything from anyone in pouring out his love and life. You might not be a Beethoven in musical composition, but you may be a Beethoven with regard to a capacity of kindness. You may be a virtuoso of order and organization, or an unseen Nobel Prize winner in the work of caring for the unseen and forgotten poor. God's gifts come in so many ways, often unseen and unrecognized even by ourselves. We sometimes need someone else to recognize them in us to know that they are truly there. Our own bad self-image or false humility, or laziness, might fool us into thinking that God somehow forgot me. As my mom often used to tell us kids, "When God was passing out brains, you thought he said trains, and you missed yours."
Now this is Pentecost Sunday, and we rightly consider the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, mostly given in the sacrament of Confirmation: knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, fortitude, piety (the ability to recognize the Sacred), and fear of the Lord (proper self-awareness in the Presence of the Sacred).
But there are countless other gifts which you have also received, in most cases, when we were not paying attention as infants at Baptism. Baptism is everything, my brothers and sisters. Not only is it the basis of our family, it is the fullness of gifts that God has given his family to accomplish his will, a will that will truly make us happy and rich (in ways that actually mean something). You have received them but chances are, you got the gift package but still have to tear off the pretty wrapping paper and find the powerful gifts inside. How do we open these gifts?
We are scheduling the Called and Gifted Workshop again this fall on September 7. It is now a one-day Workshop to make it easier for you. I believe this Workshop is the doorway by which the people of God discover their identity. It is not until we know who we are that we will be able to imagine what we can do. Then, uniting our wills to God, we will co-create this Kingdom whose blueprints we will study, do the necessary preparation and begin construction as Beethovens in all arts and disciplines.
Since summer is here and the Called and Gifted Workshop happens shortly after summer ends, I request that you register now and mark your calenders now. Renewal will follow, I promise.
God bless you.