How To Be An Effective Person
by Sean Sheehy
I think it’s true to say that, consciously or unconsciously, everyone wants to be effective. No one wants to be a failure. The Dictionary defines effectiveness as being “successful in producing a desired or intended result.” We want to be effective in our studies, our work, our marriage, our home, our relationships, and in our life in general. There’s nothing sadder than to reach the end of life and feel like you’ve made no difference. What makes us effective? An effective man or woman is an individual who is achieving his or her potential. As I’ve said in previous articles, our potential is to be what God created us to be, namely His image and likeness. When this is our goal, we’ll be effective in all that we say or do in life. Any other goal will render us ineffective. As the Psalmist was inspired to write: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guard the city, in vain does the guard keep vigil.” (Ps 127:1) The most important question for us, then, is what does it mean to be God’s image and likeness in this world?
To answer this question, we need to turn to God. “Whence shall help come to me? My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 1211-2) God gave us the perfect model of what it means to be His image and likeness in the Person of Jesus Christ, God’s Word-become-man. He is God’s image and likeness in the flesh. He shows us the way by His example, teaching us the truth, and bestowing on us God’s Spirit converting our spirit and making us like Him. This 5th Sunday of Easter Jesus speaks to us through His Church and uses the metaphor of the vine and the branches (Jn 15:1-8) to illustrate how union with Him is essential if we’re to be effective human beings and successful in living our life. A life lived well is a life of preparation for eternity where we’ll meet the Lord face-to-face as our Judge, hoping that He in His mercy will deem us worthy of Heaven. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall bow down before Him.” (Ps 22: 26-32)
Faith is what we rely upon as the source of our power, meaning, value, and purpose. Power enables us to change and improve things for the better. Meaning gives us value, which establishes our self-worth and that of others, along with a purpose that answers the question of why we’re here on earth and what resources we need to attain it. Only the God who created us can provide us with these qualities. He alone gives us a power, a meaning, a value, and a purpose that no one can take away from us and fulfils our potential. Sadly, many people look to false gods to provide these qualities that ultimately leave them powerless, meaningless, worthless, and aimless.
At the Passover Supper, after changing bread and wine into His body and blood and ordaining His Apostles to do what He did, Jesus said, “I am the vine and my Father is the vine grower. He prunes away every barren branch but the fruitful one He trims clean to increase their yield.” (Jn 15:1-2) To become God’s image and likeness we must be joined to Jesus like the branches are joined to the vine. Just as the branches grow naturally from the vine so we grow naturally from being joined to Jesus beginning in Baptism. To facilitate the fruitfulness of the vine the gardener cuts off the barren branches and prunes the fruitful ones. God does the same with us through His word, prayer, and suffering. To make sure His Apostles are fruitful, Jesus tells them, “Live on in me as I do in you. No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4-5) Then, to drive home the point, He said, “A man who does not live in me is like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown into the fire and burned.” (Jn 15:6)
To be an effective person is to bear lasting fruit, we must live in Jesus and He must live in us as the source of our power, meaning, value, and purpose. How do is that possible? Jesus answers our question when He said in His discourse on the Bread of Life, “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world… The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will draw life from me.” (Jn 6: 51, 56-57) To clarify that He wasn’t speaking symbolically, Jesus said, “For my flesh is real food, and my blood real drink.” (Jn 6;55) Jesus made all this possible until the end of time by instituting the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday and ordaining the Apostles to do what He did in memory of Him through His Mass celebrated by His Church. By living in us through the gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist Jesus grafts us to Himself and makes us effective persons drawing strength from Him to do works that last.
Jesus assures us that, “If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will and it will be done for you.” (Jn 15:7) Just as the sap in the vine energizes the branches to be fruitful so Jesus’ Spirit energize us through His Church’s Sacraments, especially the Holy Mass. Jesus also grafts us onto Him through keeping His commandments but in the most intimate manner in the Holy Mass. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Little children (beginners in the Faith) Let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it … Those who keep His Commandments remain in Him and He in them.” (1 Jn 3:18-24) Joined to Jesus we’re effective, but separated from Him we’re failures. Because Jesus didn’t want anyone to be a failure, He commanded His Apostles, and through them His Church, to “teach all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” However, we have to personally invite Jesus to visibly join Himself to us if we want to be effective persons. We can’t do this without His Church. (frsos)