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The Four Letter Word That Makes The Difference

by Lois Donahue

Before you jump to the conclusion that the four-letter word I'm referring to is 'love', I want you to know that it isn't. But please don't think I am in any way downplaying the unquestionable and major importance of 'love'. God is certainly the proof of how essential love is. After all, He chose to create each of us out of love. He saved us out of love. Out of love He continues to offer us all the help we need to deal with any situation or any set of circumstances. Above all, He has promised to love us impartially, unconditionally and forever and has commanded us to love Him and our neighbor.

However, here is what inclines me to think that, in a way at least, 'self' might well make the difference. God, who is, without question, all that love can be, chose to give us a free will which would seem to say that He is leaving it up to each of us - to our 'self' - to decide not only who, what, how and when we 'love', but also if we love at all. In other words, I'm not comparing self and love. It just seems to me that, where we humans are concerned, 'self', in a sense, might precede 'love'. So much for my defense of love. Now let me get to my 'self'-theory by passing on to you a kind of preliminary explanation I was given. At the time of creation when God brought into existence all that would eventually produce each of us as physical human beings, He saw to it that, as each one of us came into being, we had a soul which would be the base of our spiritual connection to Him and a mind (which our dictionaries tell us is that part of us which "perceives, thinks, reasons, judges and wills"). 

He also instilled in each of us the knowledge of what He wanted us to know was right and what was wrong and gave us a conscience to guide our thinking so that we would choose and act in accordance with that knowledge. However, something that complicated things a bit, was that He gave us free will ('will' being defined as "the power of control the mind has over its own actions"). In other words, He put us in charge of decisions and choices. He gave us the privilege and the responsibility, of pretty much determining our spiritual destiny.

Guess that's what started me thinking of 'self" as making the difference. That, and reading the section on Conscience in the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says we must educate and form our conscience and that doing so is a life-long task. For me, the specific reference to "our" and "we" and "life-long" pretty much gave 'self' a major and long running role in the whole picture. To put it concisely let me quote one of our local Catholic periodicals, "For your conscience to work properly, it must be properly informed - that is you must inform yourself about what is right and what is wrong. Only then will your conscience be a trusted guide."

One of the on-going problems I do have with my 'self' is that too often it convinces itself that it not only makes the difference but that it makes the rules as to what is right and what is wrong…forgetting or ignoring that God makes the rules and that He gave us His Church (Matt 16:18) to continue to speak for Him making known to us just what those "rights" and "wrongs" are. Sadly, it's pretty much a sure thing that this will continue to happen and I only hope and pray that when it does I will have done my best to have informed my conscience so that it will guide me into knowing what God expects of me and that, in turn, my 'self' will have the sense and the strength to act accordingly.

Plus that, the Catechism tells me that I cannot rely solely on 'self' and reminds me of the importance of faith and prayer. I often think about God having made us in His image and likeness, and although I don't know exactly what that means, I again hope and pray that this 'self' which is ME will not so badly distort or disfigure whatever resemblance of Him I have been given that it will be rendered unrecognizable.

So much for my thoughts about 'self' making the difference. Now let me close with two somewhat related quotes - one from an old-timer family member who was always a strict (and wise) disciplinarian - "If you want to win, you have to play by the rules and GOD MAKES THE RULES." The other one is from a recent issue of Catholic Answers - "God never overrides His creatures' freedom to reject Him." - to which let me add - nor will He ever deny them any help if they seek to choose Him.

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"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

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