Why do you breathe?

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I recently found this quote from St. John Newman in a liturgy booklet that caught my eye and my heart. St. John wrote:

“Everyone who breathes…has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing: we are not born at random…

God sees every one of us; He creates every soul… for a purpose.

As Christ has His work, we too have ours; as He rejoiced to do 

His work, we must rejoice in ours also.”

We have heard these words or similar ones before. They are not new, but this time of year is apropos for this reflection.

Having recently celebrated the great mystery of the Incarnation and reflecting on the dignity of the human person because God deemed to send His only Son because He so loved the world, we now continue to live our mission animated by the deep love that God has for us. If you are breathing at this moment, you have a mission; you have a “job” to do, a special work that only you can do in the way your being embraces that work. We do similar things in life, being mothers, fathers, single people dedicated to a specific work, religious Sisters, Brothers, Priests, diocesan deacons and priests, nurses and doctors, blue-collared workers and white-collared workers, professionals and service workers, etc… But only I can be a Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart as a diocesan worker in the Office for Human Dignity, in the way and being that I am. If I don’t embrace my mission, no one else can do it for me.

Needless to say, that goes for all of us. No matter who you are or what you do or which choices you have made with your life, only you fulfill the purpose for which God has created you. Instead of looking for a resolution for this 2021 New Year, may I suggest that you first discover for what reason have you been born.  What is the purpose of your life? That is a huge question, but spend some time reflecting on that, asking our good God and the Spirit to enlighten you with wisdom and clarity. 

Then once you have some idea or some clarity, ask God how well are you doing your mission. This is another hard question. Some of us are very self-critical and can never please ourselves. Some are the opposite, failing to evaluate ourselves with honesty and frequently justifying our actions, so as not to accept failure. Dare to ask your friends and colleagues to give you honest answers. Tell them that you will not be hurt by their responses, but on the contrary they are helping you to grow in self-knowledge, which is the beginning of wisdom.

Finally, ask yourself what else you can do to make our world (not my world) a better place. What are the worst evils that are afflicting our world today? You probably can say the correct words: poverty, hunger, racism, the COVID19 virus, refusal to care for Mother Earth, evil use of power and riches, lack of health care for all, lack of basic living conditions…

But what can I do to change my attitudes and actions, so as to contribute to a more global change in these evils? For what purpose did God create me? 

If we are breathing, then we have a mission and a purpose. Each one of us.

Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

2 thoughts on “Why do you breathe?

  1. Thank you so much. My mission now is to be a complete Laudato Si’ Animator and that entails doing my part to impact a positive direction to end Racism, Covid-19 and Climate Change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Julian, Thank you for reading and responding to our reflection. I truly believe what St. John Newman wrote. I spent 32 years as a missionary sister in the jungles of Brazil, but all that by the grace of God. However those years are no more noble than a person who realizes that she/he is “on mission” everyday and consciously lives that mission spirit whenever she/he is. You are a true missionary! Blessings, Sr. Nancy


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