By Mark C McCann, Catholic Stand, July 19, AD2018
When I was six years old I had a special treasure chest. It was only an old black plastic lunchbox, the kind a man might take to a construction site. I had filled it with all sorts of precious trinkets: marbles and magnifying glasses, cereal box prizes and secret notes, bouncing balls and classic comics, and all manner of wonders a small boy might desire to make his young life complete.
Our family moved from the city to the suburbs that year and somehow in the confusion and clutter of the transition my beautiful treasure box was lost. While the years have muted the memories of those treasures and those times I still recall the emotions I felt: the awkwardness of making new friends and facing bullies, the pain of missing my father who soon thereafter took a new job out of state, and the longing for wholeness that hung heavy in my heart. The loss of that precious treasure box became for me a symbol of the human heart’s hunger for security, meaning, and peace.
The Hungers that Stay with Us—Our Blueprint for Living
Through the years, as I have grown in my faith, I have seen how God took those tiny childhood traumas and brought His Spirit to bear upon my life. God, the Master Builder, was able to take the rubble and ruin of my early struggles and through His Son, create a rock-solid stratum of immovable faith in my life. It led me to a deeper dependence upon His care and a greater love for the faith that sustained me through the trials of my life, as He built me into the man I am today.
Our heavenly Father has a plan for our lives, a holy blueprint that He uses to shape His children within the Church by satisfying the four basic hungers that all human beings have. These inner longings are really just the ways in which we work out the purposes for which we have been created. When we grow in Christ, those hungers are satisfied and we become the men and women we are meant to be.
Submission is Resting in Our Experience of Obedience
The first hunger or purpose is Submission. All of us are wired for submission, though we may not realize it. We are taught by the media and secular philosophy to become masters of our worlds, to stand on our own two feet and take control of our lives. Deep down, though, we really just want rest. We want to find our purpose and give in to it. Only Christ can fill this deep need. Consider the following:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10 RSV2-CE)
This is a picture of Jesus in the garden, crying out to His Father to take the cup of His Passion from Him. Jesus faced the temptation to run from the cross, but He knew He had to submit to the Father’s will. The Bible says he “learned obedience through what He suffered” (v. 8). The Greek word for learn is μανθάνωmanthanō, which means to grow in knowledge through experience and practice. Jesus learned obedience by experience and not just by His nature as God. The Greek for obedience is ὑπακοή hypakoē, which means compliance or submission. The last word, suffered, is the Greek πάσχω paschō, which means to be affected in a sensible way.
As Jesus obeyed and submitted to His Father, He “arrived,” if you will, at the experience of being the submissive lamb. He lived out in time through His submission what had been ordained from all eternity. And so He stands as our model of obedience. Until we come to obey God in humble submission, we cannot fully experience the joy, power, and presence of our salvation, and ultimately embrace our true purpose as members of the Body of Christ.
Fellowship Means Connection
The second purpose or hunger is Fellowship. God has designed us to desire a connection with others. We walk the road of life with greater joy when we walk it together. Look at this passage from 1 John:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7 RSV2-CE)
The word fellowship here is the Greek word κοινωνία koinōnia, which, in this case, means an intimate, committed, and active communion with Jesus Christ through His people. When we are connected to the light—to Jesus—we want to seek out others to share that same light as we work out our salvation, becoming purified from sin and growing in holiness as we actualize the eternal life we have with Christ.
Evangelization is Discipleship Building
The third purpose or hunger is Evangelization. Not only do we seek to be with others who know Jesus, but we also desire to reach out to others outside the Body of believers in answer to the Master’s command:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV2-CE)
We are told to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them, and living together in obedience and hope, as we await the return of our Savior. Notice how the previous hungers of submission and fellowship are a part of this call to love others in Jesus’ name. Christianity is about being made perfect in this life—that is, becoming whole and complete in His image—through the discipline of obedience.
Glorifying Our God in Excellence
Our fourth hunger is to Glorify God. Essentially, this is about being a fragrant aroma—a pleasing offering—to God. Take a look at these passages:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, RSV2-CE)
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, RSV2-CE)
Both of these readings use the same word, δόξα doxa, for glory, from which we get our word doxology. It refers to the kingly splendor and excellence of God. To give glory to God is to acknowledge His authority, His majesty, and His love for us in all its perfection. It is also a living out of what this glory means for our lives. As we become obedient, submissive servants of Christ, sharing the Gospel with our lives, we spread the fragrance of God’s glory to all the world (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). We become like an offering of incense rising up to heaven as we experience the full flowering of life in His Son.
From Blueprint to Becoming
These are the hungers buried deep inside us—longings that go unfulfilled until we surrender them to God and God alone. As we yield ourselves to Him, fellowship with Him and one another, and call others into that wonderful relationship built on the foundation of Christ, we build the Body in all its perfection:
So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, RSV2-CE)
This is what life in Christ within the Church means to us. As we come to God through Jesus—The Way, the Truth, and the Life—we become God’s building and live as a kingdom of priests, offering our lives to God through Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5). This is our purpose, our fulfillment, and our life in God. As Jesus dwells in our hearts, He uses us to build His spiritual house so that we may celebrate the fullness and abundance of God as we connect with one another and a lost world (see Ephesians 3:14-19). Without that foundation—that blueprint for living in Christ— we cannot find the wholeness that we long to embrace.
The Master Builder Builds in Love
In the end, the kind of life we build is based on the lasting treasures we store in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). God will test us one day to see how well we have followed His blueprint. Will it be the world’s way—which is really no way at all, a shaky structure that cannot endure—or will it be God’s way, the way of obedience, submission, fellowship, and glory? Will we build with imperishable materials that will withstand the fire of His love (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)?
As God has shaped my life by satisfying the hungers within me and laying up in heaven for me new and lasting treasures, so too can He take the blueprint of your life and build you into the man or woman He has called you to be. Let us strive to fill our heavenly treasure boxes with wonders which can never be lost; and let us rejoice in living out in our lives the divine blueprint that Jesus has left us by the example of His life.
Mark C. McCann is an author and Ministry Consultant with a BA in Theology from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. He has more than 30 years of experience in ministry to children, youth and families, In the past he has served as an Associate Director of Youth Ministry and Family Life Ministry for the Diocese of Norwich, CT, as well as a high school religious studies teacher and campus minister, a DRE, and a youth minister. Mark was also a Christian radio host and producer for 8 years at a small Christian radio station. He has written for a number of Catholic magazines and websites including St. Anthony Messenger, Emmanuel Magazine, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and Catholic Exchange. He currently lives in Connecticut with his Proverbs 31 wife and three incredible children, and lives out his call each day to be a man of words. His ministry website is www.wordsnvisions.com.