Image: “Road to Emmaus” (detail) by Robert Zünd | Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Individually, we’re each going through our own life journey…whatever that looks like. Interpersonal struggles. Struggles with the past. Struggles within the family. Struggles at work. Struggles to pray. Struggles to let down our guard, to let others in, to trust more deeply. Struggles to be faithful to what’s in front of us for the day. Struggles to do what we know we have to do versus what we want to do. Struggles of casting off a self-image of who we think we should be compared to who we are and how God made us. All sorts of different struggles.

These are more often “in our face” than areas that aren’t a struggle. Side-by-side to this though, there are also just as many ways the good Lord is blessing us… a kind word or gesture from another person that lifts up our spirits, something we did well and another congratulated us, a victory we had over self, an amazing experience where God made His presence known to us so tangibly, a tough conversation that went well, a moment where we did the right thing even when it wasn’t the popular choice, doing something we were afraid of, an inspiration that we followed through with and somehow God touched the life of someone else in way that was made known to us, etc.

Each of us is going through different versions of what I just noted.

It’s a very personal journey.

AND…all we have to do is look around to see how our personal life journey impacts the person next to us. Our response to grace and lack thereof is not just about ourself. It’s also about our neighbor. Nothing ever happens in a silo. Somehow what we do today actually touches the lives of many people inside and outside this room – because God’s grace and the inter-connectedness of each life is part of the tapestry that God is weaving that contains the whole human story. Each person plays an essential part.

From Romans 14:7, “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others…”

When we raise it up to this realm, it’s amazing to think about. But the reality is, instead of seeing the mountaintop, we often focus on the ground and our struggle to get off the ground and up the mountain.

Moments like this, you reading this reflection , are opportunities for us to be reminded of why we’re here. Why we even exist. We can’t ever forget this. And regardless of the numerous times we fall throughout even just one day, we need to get back up and continue on the journey. So many people are depending on us, even though they don’t know it and we are unaware of it ourselves.

We are called as Christians to be a witness and it’s the day-to-day stuff of life where the rubber hits the road. Somehow, right now, at this very moment, we are drawing souls closer to the Heart of Jesus. We’re pointing them to heaven.

On a side note, that feels unrelated to this reflection but is indeed related, let’s touch upon the topic of affirmation. As many of us have experienced, we are often unable to receive the affirmation that is being given to us. When it’s not necessarily tied to something we do, but more about WHO WE ARE. And it’s true, we each probably also need to get better at giving affirmation. However, we are often the first to brush off something someone says about us…especially if it’s good.

For us to deeply engage and be rooted in who God has made us to be and confident in our own identity from which our communal and personal mission flows out, there is a need to see that God made us good. My good is not the same as the good of another. God made all things good. And He made us each very uniquely.

Our life journey includes unpacking ALL of this every day. Because by the end of our life, we should be markedly different than when we first began our journey. The unpacking happens within the day-to-day struggle of life…and it happens even more clearly within the context of our neighbor because we were made to reflect God’s goodness to each other as well as helping with the chiseling process of the other.

In this month of November, when traditionally, there is an emphasis on gratitude, it is also an invitation for us to thank God for the gift of everything He sends our way. Absolutely everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Because somehow He is fashioning me, you, us with it all.

Take a moment to think through a blessing you received. Something about yourself that was an affirmation, something someone reflected back to you. Something that you’ve come to learn about yourself that you find you now appreciate, a gift you have, etc.

The purpose of this is to invite us to be open to how God is moving in our life. If we are unable to receive and accept these parts of ourselves, it is almost like telling God, He’s not a good Creator and that you don’t want to see the whole picture of how He created you. In being able to receive and accept these blessings in ourselves that are a blessing to others, it’s recognizing that God does all things well and somehow, I am, with my little part, helping complete the tapestry that God is creating of the whole human story.

Remember, “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others…” Romans 14:7.

By Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

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