Patton and the Mission

January 15, 2017

In the 1970 movie “Patton,” there is a scene that vividly depicts the faith of the general in the enterprising nature of the human spirit.

It is during World War II and Patton's forces are pinned down by heavy gunfire and shelling as they are trying to punch through enemy lines. The general drives to the battle-front to determine the problem. He decides the commander tasked with the job is not up to it so he “fires” him on the spot and promotes a junior officer to command. He tells the newly appointed commander that if he doesn't get through the enemy lines the general will fire him as well.

In 1947 a book was published that collected Patton's letters and memoirs concerning his experiences in World War II. In the book he is quoted as saying, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

To paraphrase from another movie, “man was made to serve God, cunningly, in the tangles of his mind.”

Every human person has a unique combination of gifts, talents and abilities. When we are assigned a task we all approach it in different ways. I once had an instructor in art school who expressed amazement at the fact that he could give an entire class the exact same assignment and receive entirely different results from each student.

If you have ever been assigned to a group of people tasked with solving a problem, you probably experienced something similar. The variety of solutions proposed is remarkable. Every person has a unique skill set that they bring to bear in accomplishing a task.

Many times there is more than one solution although some may work better than others.

For the Christian, there is only one task to accomplish but an infinite number of ways to do so. There has only ever been one thing to do, one great mission to which we are all called. It is the same mission that John the Baptist answered, to bear witness to Christ. John was completely focused on His mission as the herald of the Messiah. John's life only made sense in service to another. When that mission was accomplished he was content to give way to the Lamb of God.

But it is not enough for us to merely accomplish the task, we must do so in a way that encourages others to do likewise. As members of Christ’s mystical body we are the physical presence of Jesus to the world. We are each called to be a light to others. Bt encouraging others to use their gifts in the great mission, God’s salvation is made known known to the ends of the earth.

How we do this will be different according to each individual’s unique gifts, talents and ingenuity. We are all called to the same mission but each one of us is called in a unique way that only he or she can fulfill, a way that will never be repeated.

Each of us is called to take part in a great adventure. We have been equipped with the tools and resources we need and we have been given a task to accomplish.

Think of it as climbing a mountain. We begin by determining that God is calling us to climb the mountain, to meet Him at its summit. The actual climb is a time of formation. We learn how to use the gifts God has given us as we overcome obstacles and avoid temptations. This is a time of trial and testing, designed to strengthen us and build our confidence.

Finally, we have that encounter with God. We arrive at the top of the mountain and gain some measure of understanding. We have a better idea of our role and purpose in God's plan for the salvation of mankind.

Finally we descend the mountain, armed with a greater understanding of our gifts and talents and how to employ them in our great mission. We return to where we started so that we may help others along the same path.

Many of us spend our lives running from God and rejecting His call. But when we embrace His mission and realize our role in God’s great plan, we receive grace upon grace and peace upon peace.

The things we are experiencing right now, good and bad, are all part of God’s plan to save the world. How we respond to those things is up to us.

Pax vobiscum

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