December 28, 2021

What’s My Purpose?

$10.4 billion annually. That’s what the so-called “self-help” industry is worth. By 2025, that number is expected to grow to $14 billion.

Search “what’s my purpose?” and about 6,860,000,000 results will be returned.

It’s a question I’ve long struggled with until this past year. Something came to me during one of my early morning walks with my dog, who is the best meditation partner one could hope for. My purpose, in fact our collective purpose as Christians, is the same: to expand the presence of God on earth by fully sharing the gifts which we’ve been given.

All of us – without exception – have been given a gift by God. Some of our gifts may seem similar, but because we are unique individuals, those gifts can only be fully expressed by the one who possesses them. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is use those gifts fully.

To my embarrassment, the answer has been “hiding” in plain sight all the time. I’ve read it on several occasions, and yet never made the connection. The answer is in Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about our purpose, but without saying the word:

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed...There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

Paul goes on to tell us that these gifts have been given for the common good, and that “all these are the work of one and the same Spirit...”

To emphasize that everyone’s gift matters, and that one gift is not better than another, Paul uses the analogy of the body.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized byone Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

Paul reminds us that our diversity as the Body of Christ is our strength and that we are interdependent on one another:

“If they were all one part, where would the body be?...The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor...Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Not only does this speak to our purpose as individuals, it inextricably ties us together as a community. The second part is what often gets lost in a culture that worships “individual freedom.” Our individual actions have consequences for the entire body.

As we enter this New Year, let’s commit to supporting one another in fully living out the gifts we’ve been given, and doing so in a way that advances the entire Body of Christ. It’s not an option; it’s our obligation as followers of Jesus.

Three next steps:

1. Affirm the commitment stated above, and make this commitment known in your parish.

2. Incorporate the commitment to support one another discovering and sharing their God-given gifts into the Christian education and formation programs you are offering children and adults. Consider a preaching series on this topic as well.

3. Evangelize using this work. We’re not great at this, but we’re commanded to “go forth in the power of the Spirit” at the conclusion of every Eucharist. I cannot think of a more powerful way to attract more followers than to let them know that it was the Church, not a self-help book, that guided us to the fulfillment of our God-given purpose.