By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo
In my life, I have dealt with many people from all different walks of life and status. Some were highly educated and some less. Some were successful and some less. I have been an educator and I have attended a few schools. After many years, I have discovered that the key to success and happiness is the knowledge of oneself which leads to God’s knowledge if we let God help us.
Jesus began teaching the Apostles by motivating them to truly understand who they were. After the first year with Jesus, they asked him: “Jesus, teach us to pray.” At the end of the second year they begged him: “Jesus, increase our faith!” In the third year, it was: “Jesus, show us the Father!” They understood who Jesus was and who they were. On Pentecost day, they stood, ran and spread their faith in Jesus all over the world.
Father Guanella is a great model for us. At first, he did not understand Sr. Clare. He was her confessor and spiritual director. She was a mystic and he did not know anything about it. He studied St. Theresa of Avila and learned that he had a precious pearl in his hands. Both of them are saints. Later on, when Fr. Guanella became a Founder, some priests asked him to join his congregation. Some, like Bacciarini, were holy, some were alcoholics, some in trouble with chastity, some were rebels in their Diocese, some who lost their faith and others from painful backgrounds. Father Guanella accepted all who knocked at his door. Slowly and painfully, like a master sculptor, he started to change them by making them understand their inner self. Their inner self made them take wrong decisions and sometimes make bad decisions. But at the end, they became acceptable priests.
The knowledge of self is the foundation of our life. Our life is constantly trying to balance our body and our soul; but this may not be possible without self-knowledge. Often we are attracted by other people, but are spiritually and emotionally too lazy to discover our true identity. Therefore our mistakes increase and our disappointments become a collection of failures. Our daily life runs through the complete experience of ourselves: study, work, love, sport and friendship compete for the first spot, but the true scale depends on the level of self-knowledge.
Even our prayer depends on who we are if we want a relationship with God. But if we do not know who we really are, often we decide against nature, our character and even against our personal history. In prayer, for example, we should not ask for something that we would never be able to do. When we pray, we beg God; we enter into an agreement with God who is a loving Father. It brings to mind the foolish experience of Herod and Salome. Mark tells us the story. “The king said to the girl: ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you. He even swore to her: I will grant whatever you ask of me, even half of my kingdom. (Mk 6, 22-23).
We know the end of this story! The head of John the Baptist, despite Herod’s feelings, was presented on a platter. John and James, ask Jesus for a special favor, showing that they do not know anything about the kingdom of God. Mark again relates: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left. Jesus said to them, you do not know what you are asking.” (Mk 10, 37-38).
The first thing we should ask in prayer is the understanding of our mystery, of our interior light, our qualities, and our charism. It is necessary to have a practical understanding of our habits, expectations, times of learning and attitudes. The farmer who prays for a quality harvest knows the land and its activities.
Prayer always reveals the heart of each one of us. Jesus explained to his disciples that it is always necessary to ask or answer when we pray, like we do in our every day relationships, without fooling ourselves and starting with our real means. How many times have we blown it because we did not really know what we were doing! John the Baptist can explain to his followers the nature of his role, because he knows the role of Jesus. In this way he avoids the danger of misrepresenting history.
Our relationship with God is essential and our life depends on it. Christ gave us the light to understand the Will of God. The Father is creator, redeemer and inspiration. Where there is His blessing, there is no failure. Without these truths we will fall into criticism, dissatisfaction, weakness and mediocrity. Before sending his disciples all over the world, Jesus prepared them for the Kingdom of the Father. Without the knowledge of God there is no faith. Without the knowledge of self, there is nothing to hold together our prayer with the heavenly truths.