When we think of the apostolate we think of action, of going and of doing. Influenced by the achievement-oriented culture in which we live we think of the indefatigable labours of Saints Paul and Francis Xavier. But strange as it may seem, the first, the last and perhaps the most effective apostolate we will ever exercise is the apostolate of being - of being me; of being happy to be me.
I had absolutely nothing to do with my existence. I did not choose to be, I did not choose to be me. How could I choose when I wasn’t? My parents didn’t choose me either. They may have wanted a child but they did not know who I would be. But God knew exactly who I would be. And God wanted me. “You have not chosen me; I have chosen you.” God chose me out of an infinite number of possible beings, beings that possibly could be. The only logical conclusion from these facts of life is that the will of God for me, my mission, my apostolate is to be me; to be happy to be me.
Being me means first of all to accept the gift of existence, to accept life from the womb to the tomb. This is not easy. As we grow older the ‘intimations of mortality’ become more frequent and much more impressive. ‘To be or not to be?’ That is the question many people ask themselves every day. ‘Is it really worthwhile to go on?’ Suicide and euthanasia are serious national problems today.
Being me also means to accept the human condition with its ‘transcendental neediness’ and personal inter -dependence. To accept the fact that I am not absolutely self-autonomous. As an effect of original sin, I do not have the gift of integrity. I do not have perfect control over all of my faculties. Each faculty goes out after its own proper object, heedless of the other. What control I do have is gained only with a lot of discipline. And discipline is what I need most and want least. I have a free will, which is my greatest dignity, but also my most awesome responsibility. I must think for myself, take the initiative and assume responsibility for my personal actions. I must accept the fact that I am a sinner, actually in the past, potentially in the future and always carrying this treasure in a very fragile vessel.
Being me means to accept my particular, unique, unrepeatable edition of the human condition. There is not now, there never has been, and there never will be another me. (And everyone else is glad of it! I can make other people happy just by being me.)
Since I am one of a kind, I am not inferior or superior to anyone. I give God a praise, honour, love and service that no one else can give. Therefore, I am indispensable. It is very important to have this positive self-image because psychologists tell us that the most vicious disease of normal people is a negative self-image - an inferiority complex. And it is one of the greatest obstacles of the apostolate.
It is not easy to be me because there are powerful forces, both interior and exterior, that are trying to make me someone else. The exterior forces are from the media that are beamed at us 24/7 telling us that if we wish to be accepted we should wear this type of clothing, drink this beverage, drive this car and act and believe as they do. They tempt us to buy what we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. Peer pressure is not just for the young we all want to belong to be accepted. It is not easy to be counter-cultural. If we depend on the acceptance and approval of others, what happens if they do not give us their stamp of approval?
Then there are the interior forces within us, envy, jealousy, the desire to be popular, to be like someone else. We are social beings who live together in society so it is natural for us to compare ourselves with others. Unfortunately, we compare our total self only to their exterior self - the self that we see. Since we do not know their total self we foolishly think that they are superior.
Finally, the apostolate of being means to be happy to be me. This is the will of God for me and there is nothing more perfect that I can do than the will of God. I am happy to be me because God loves me, not as I could be or should be, but as I am with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities. And he loves me unconditionally with a love I cannot earn or ever be worthy of.
I am happy to be me because I am a tabernacle of the Blessed Trinity Who dwells within me as the ground of my being. “In him we live and move and have our being.” I am really ‘We’, and ‘We’ are mostly God. I am happy to be me because this is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual happiness here as well as hereafter. I am happy to be me because this is the greatest way that I can express my gratitude to God for the gift of myself. I am happy to be me because, outside the Sacrifice of the Mass, which has an infinite value, the greatest honour and praise I can give God is to be happy, to be happy to be me. ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’
There is only one love; the love of God. We are not creators - we are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God. We simply accept this love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. We let this love permeate our being, radiate from us and overflow to others. This love of God working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and, a fortiori, do.
Whether we live a long life or a short one, whether we are sickly or healthy, whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, whether we accomplish much or little in this world, is only incidental. What is important is that I make the love of God visible in me; that I give the love of God credibility so that others may believe, hope and love and be happy to be themselves.
Finally, I am happy to be me because this is the greatest weapon I have in the apostolate. The apostolate of being happy to be me is the first apostolate I exercised, it is the last apostolate I will exercise and it is always the most effective apostolate I exercise. If I want to be an apostle I don’t have to go on the missions; I don’t have to build churches and schools; I don’t have to preach missions and give retreats or write books and edit magazines. All I have to do it to be me and to be happy to be me. And if I want to promote vocations to serve God in the priesthood or religious life all I have to do is to be happy, happy to be me.
Everyone is seeking happiness. This is confirmed by their statements that go right to the heart of the matter. ‘What you are shouts so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.’ “Don’t tell me what Jesus can do for m. You show me what Jesus has done for you.” “If you want us to believe in your redeemer, look a little more redeemed.” So when they do meet someone who is genuinely happy they want to know what makes him happy. And when they discover that it is Jesus they want to be a Christian, and perhaps even to be a priest or a religious.
Lord, it is good to be me. I am happy to be me. I accept myself; I love myself; I affirm myself and I celebrate my-self because in so doing I am accepting, loving, affirming and celebrating You.
Fr. Rodney Kissinger SJ