Are You Afraid of Success?
“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” (From A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.)
Today’s gospel passage makes me think of this inspiring quote – used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech as president of South Africa. When Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and will do greater ones than these,” I usually think to myself, “No way. How could I do anything greater than Jesus?” Why do I doubt that I can do great things if Jesus Christ is alive in me?
Called to Continue the Mission
Yet all three readings today present the clear message that God expects us to continue Jesus’ mission and be just as successful. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how the early Christians took on the responsibility to care for the physical and spiritual needs of people inside and outside of their community. In the First Letter of Peter, we are reminded that we are God’s people, a royal priesthood so that “you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness.” And the Gospel ends with Jesus calling his followers to continue his work because he is returning to his Father.
I misled you at the beginning of this reflection. The heading said, “Are You Afraid of Success?” Actually, the key for me is that continuing Jesus’ mission is not about success, it is about faithfulness. I need to focus on being the same kind of loving, caring, and honest human being that Jesus is. If I can risk letting God’s light shine through me, God will take care of everything else.
Here’s an example: I’m teaching 6th grade religious education. Rather than focusing on lots of tricks to make the kids like me or think I’m cool, I just try to share my enthusiasm for studying the Bible and my love of the Church. And I pray hard that I might show God’s love and care for them in all my words and actions.
I really didn’t have any idea whether or not this approach was “successful” until two different parents came up to me and said, “I don’t know what you are doing but my son/daughter looks forward to coming to religious education for the first time in years.” Wow! Now that’s a sign of God at work through me! And God will work through you in the same way – just be faithful and don’t be afraid of “success.”
What signs do you see that God is powerfully working through your parish?
How is God working through you to share the light of Christ and the love of God?
What lesson could leaders learn about redefining goals and their understanding of “success?”
Original article by Brian Singer-Towns, 2005 – 2020.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.