The Key to Effectiveness
Bishop Fulton Sheen noted that the greatest insult you could heap on someone is to say he or she was useless. No one is useless. God gives everyone at the moment of conception the capacity to make a positive difference in the world. I read a story about a reporter who asked a businessman how he got to be so wealthy. He said that when he and his wife married they had only five cents between them. “I bought an apple, polished it and sold it for ten cents. Then I bought two apples for ten cents and sold them for twenty.” The reporter asked, “Then what?” The man smiled, “My father-in-law died and left us twenty million!” Good connections make all the difference. To be successful in life we must have good connections. It’s not what we know but who we know that determines what we accomplish in the world.
In the late 80s Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identified what enabled people to be successful. He demonstrated that effective people are proactive instead of being reactive; they begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek to understand before being understood, synergize, and continue improving themselves. Identifying and advocating these habits of highly effective people made him highly successful. Habits are actions that we do repeatedly until they become embedded in our consciousness so that we do them unconsciously. We need to realize that our actions flow from our intellect and will, both of which are faculties of our soul. To develop good habits we need a well-nourished soul.
Our soul – our self – is created by God. Therefore we need God to nourish it so that we can think truthfully and choose what’s good, if we’re going to be effective men and women. How do we connect with God? We don’t. It’s God who connects with us. “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.” (Jn 15:16) How does God choose us? Through Jesus’ presence in His Church in the Sacrament of Baptism. There He gives us a new identity, a new nature, and a new destiny as His adopted brother or sister. In Baptism Jesus enables us to “put on the new nature created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Eph 4:24) We can’t be fruitful if our sinful nature isn’t replaced by a new loving, life-respecting nature. The highly effective person, as is evidenced in the saints, is the man or woman who thinks and acts justly, mercifully, gracefully, and truthfully. These are the habits of an effective Christian.
To display that effective new nature we need to be continually connected to Jesus present in His Church. He is the source of our fruitfulness. “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower … Live on in me, as I do in you… I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4-5) We can’t be effective without Jesus since He alone shows us how to achieve our God-given potential.
How does Jesus make us effective human beings? Through His Church’s Sacraments, especially in the Holy Mass where we hear His Word, celebrate His real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and receive Him in Holy Communion. In that action of His, through the ordained priest, Jesus visibly joins Himself to us and energizes our soul so that we can go out and effectively promote life and love in a world wallowing in death, hate, and apathy. This is a real connection with Jesus, not a symbolic gesture, as He Himself revealed. “Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6:53-54) Jesus isn’t speaking symbolically but concretely. He makes the reception of Him in Holy Communion the essential and effective nourishment for our soul: “For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink. The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in Him.” (Jn 6:56) Thus Jesus guarantees a continual communion with Him since we need on-going spiritual nourishment to be effective witnesses to what is good. This is why he commanded His Apostles on Holy Thursday when He instituted the Holy Eucharist and ordained the Apostles to the priesthood to “Do this in memory of me!” (Lk 22:19)
Jesus is the best connection we can ever have since He is the only one who has risen from the dead. He alone enables us to “love not in word and speech but in deed and truth …and love one another just as He commanded us.” (1 Jn 3:18-24) He empowers us, in the words of the Psalmist, to “let the coming generations be told of the Lord that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.” (Ps 22:32) Only Jesus can make you and me effective persons in a fallen world. (frsos)