I have touched on the importance of knowing yourself quite frequently in this blog. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, the inner workings of the soul and your relation to God is essential for you to grow deeper with Christ. By utilizing your strengths for good and by working on your weaknesses through prayer and grace, one can become a saintly member within the Body of Christ. The aim of self-knowledge must be to know God, therefore, we must seek to know ourselves under the light of God. Self-knowledge is not to reveal our own grandeur, but the grandeur of the infinite God and our littleness compared to Him. From self-knowledge we will come to see the infinite abyss that seperates the finite create from the infinite God.
If one is not able to know themselves, it causes both harm to the individual and others. Do not take my words for it, but take it from St. Teresa of Avila:
- Mark well, however, that self-knowledge is indispensable, even for those whom God takes to dwell in the same mansion with Himself – The 1st Mansion, Chapter 2 of the Interior Castle
- I do not know whether I have put this clearly; self-knowledge is of such consequence that I would not have you careless of it, though you may be lifted to heaven in prayer, because while on earth nothing is more needful than humility – The 1st Mansion, Chapter 2 of the Interior Castle
- As I have spoken more fully in other writings on the ill that results from ignoring the need of humility and self-knowledge… – The 1st Mansion, Chapter 2 of the Interior Castle
- His Majesty wishes us to learn by ordinary means to understand ourselves – Mansion 4, Chapter 1 of the Interior Castle
Self-knowledge can come from God in a few ways:
- We can come to know about it through acquired knowledge such as books, a presentation or discussion with others
- It can come directly from God in a more infused way as one advances further on the path of perfection
At any rate, how much of an impact this has in our lives is dependant on how much we are prepared to receive that grace. I have met a few individuals in my life who are very uncomfortable of their weaknesses and would be happier that they stay hidden and unexposed. What damage that does to the progress of a soul! It seems as if there is a shame to admit we are weak, but it is only when we admit that we are weak that we can begin to seek TREATMENT from Jesus Christ.
Back to the discussion at hand, once we understand who we are more clearly, we can begin to appreciate our unique role within the Body of Christ. If the hand can appreciate that it is only a hand, and not the entire body, then it will begin to appreciate the different members of the body and their unique function in the body. If the hand is unwilling to know itself, it serves the body very poorly. Why? Well firstly, it assumes that it knows what is best for the entire body for it IS the body. Secondly, the hand will only do what is good for the hand and assume it is what the rest of the body needs. That hand needs to come to the understanding of two things so that it can be fruitful to the body:
- It is unique in its role within the body, and that is good.
- That there are other members of the body that have different functions, which is also good.
Failure to understand this will result in a member of the body that causes more harm than good; even if that member is genuinely trying to do good for the entire body! We do this by being selfish to the needs of the rest of the body and we may directly (or indirectly) create conflict within the body, for the needs of the hands may not be the needs of the eye. We have to be very careful not to be narrow in our understanding of ourselves, and of others.
Here is a practical example as it relates to renewal. Suppose a parish renewal effort is focused heavily on one particular aspect of worship, say charismatic. The renewal effort proceeds and the parish has lively music, great hospitality and lots of evangelizing ministries. Sounds like a great renewal…or does it? Here a few things to think about this specific renewal example:
- It assumes that the particular type of renewal is one that is required to improve the entire health of the body
- It assumes that this particular type of renewal is needed equally by other members of the body
Suppose the entire body is sick to some fever. The foot, being cold, deems that the necessary cure for the body is for it to wear a sock. Although the foot may be remedied by this solution, the rest of the body has not necessarily recovered from its state. Socks alone are not sufficient to heal the body. The body needs medication, rest and nourishment to reduce the fever. Therefore, even though the foot may have had good intentions in its attempt to heal the body, by trying to develop a solution outside of the other members of the body, the solution proved to be of “marginal” help.
I used the example of a charismatic renewal, but the same can be for a renewal focused purely on catechesis. While a greater rigour is required in catechesis for children and adults today, that itself can be insufficient because we can begin to treat the world in a very legalistic view like the pharisees. Likewise with a renewal focused only on the interior life. A life focused on prayer is absolutely necessary for the body but prayer in itself is not sufficient; we need to perform good works by the graces we receive by prayer!
What is required is a renewal that is appreciative of the different roles of the Body of Christ and that we work together to form a renewal that encompasses our differences. Some people in the body will love prayer more, others may love evangelizing and others will be drawn to the deep traditions of the Church. Maybe it could be a simple a parish offering both a charismatic mass, a Latin mass and an ordinary mass. Why not? Why does it always have to be that a parish has to take on a specific identity and have disdain for all other forms? All forms are approved and all forms speak differently to different individuals. If we as the Body of Christ avoid understanding who we are in the context of the body and fail to appreciate the unique attributes of different members, the body will always be at war with it self. I do not belive this is what Jesus Christ would have wanted for the Church. We are already fighting the war with members outside of the body, it is not good that we should be at war with ourselves!
Is there a perfect solution? I am not sure, but I think we need to move renewal in a way that is focused on all members of the Body of Christ. If we keep being ignorant of our role and the role of others in the body, we will always be at war with one another. All of this of course needs to be done in conformity with scripture, tradition and the magisterium. Anything to be advocated outside of this, or that is heretical, cannot be tolerated.
We are the Body of Christ. Let us be a United Body!
Blessed Mother, pray for us!