Disparate things occasionally form tenuous links. George Weigel has a piece On the Square today in which he waxes over the recently beatified John Henry Newman. He quotes a prayer by Newman:
God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work for me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons….
The prayer continues, but that idea of being a link in a chain is striking. It is so easy to slip into a mode of thinking in which we exist in spiritual isolation to the extent that our sins and weaknesses are private. They are not, as Paul makes all too clear in his first letter to the Corinthians. A soul’s private sins affect the whole body.
The sudden recognition of interconnectedness is enough to make an individual vow, “I will not be the weak link!” That, in turns brings to mind the scene from the Dreamworks film Prince of Egypt, in which Rameses, rebuked by his father, vows that he will not be the weak link in the line of Egyptian kings. The vow hardens his heart and turns him into an autocratic dictator.
The analogy limps more than a bit. If we all form a single chain, then any one person would only need to ensure that he is not the weakest link – as long as another link fails first, the whole chain fails because of someone else – and we can all look around us and see folks that we believe are weaker links than we are. Nonetheless, it helps to be reminded that we are all joined together. Life is a team sport.
Newman was a historical figure of greatness. The Rameses of film was a fictional character based on a historical figure. It is a good thing for us to be determined not to fail in our obligations to God, but we must always remember that the obligation is manifested in love – both of God and of our fellow man created in God’s image.
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us, that we might each fulfill our mission with fidelity and love.