From time to time we take a reflective look at our life. It may be some special occasion such as a retreat or a special anniversary. It may be simply a time of leisure, when we are free from daily tasks or concerns. At those times we may very well experience mixed feelings.
Our looking back may be accompanied by a twinge of regret, a downward tug of discouragement. Depending on our training and our temperament we may focus too strongly on the negatives in our past. We recognize that the past is history and cannot be undone. But we must not allow the past with its failures to hold the future in captivity. At the same time we may also feel gratitude and a certain joy over the good things we have experienced in our lives.
Looking forward, we also have mixed feelings. We look forward with a mixture of confidence and some apprehension…with confidence because we have faith in God’s mercy, his love and his healing power …with some apprehension because the future is mystery and we are well aware of our human frailty.
These reflections naturally lead to face the question of our identity as a person. When reflecting on our identity it is important to focus on the right questions. The question to ask is not: who am I. It is much better to ask: where do I want to go and what do I have to do to get there.
The questions raised by our reflection are perennial questions. The keep coming back because as long as we are alive we never get to a point where there is nothing more to do, no challenges left. As Dag Hammarskjold put it: “No matter how far we have come, we never have the right to stop.”
If the questions are perennial, so are the answers. As Christians we have made a basic decision about our answers. The way we chose to respond is the way of Christ. Or better, we chose Christ as the way. On the way the first step and every step thereafter must be made in faith. It is faith which gives substance to our hope and which is the foundation of our Christian love.
Our reflections will prove fruitful when we see ourselves as moving forward in faith, upward in hope, and outward in love. To do that, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We need grace which is always and everywhere available, requiring only that we be open to it.