Some time ago I received advice about a stressful work situation that today remains one of my favorite tools.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” my friend encouraged.
It was just what I needed to hear. The conundrum I was in had me caught up in details, and while the particulars were important, they distracted me from the central goal of an important client project. This simple platitude my friend shared, credited to author Stephen Covey, immediately realigned me.
Over the years I’ve found it pertinent not just to matters of business, but also to matters of faith.
I’ve been guilty time and time again of getting caught up in the fine points when it comes to my walk with God, and losing sight of the essentials of the Gospel message: that I am a sinner, and that Jesus died for me, rose from the dead and conquered sin to offer me eternal salvation.
It turns out I’m not alone. The Pharisees were also guilty of missing the forest for the trees, and Jesus condemned them for it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Mt 23:23
While the main thing is not the only thing, just like Jesus explained to the Pharisees, I have to be mindful about not allowing other things to distract me from it. Satan knows this, and he uses situations to sidetrack me from Jesus’s message of salvation.
As I look ahead to Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. later this month, my hope is that I stay focused on the main thing: the Holy Father’s mission of sharing the Gospel message.
I’m certain that the pope’s words will be diluted and distorted to further agendas, to spark controversies and to wedge division among believers. The media and other interest groups will manipulate his message with their own ideas of what the main thing should be.
So I will remember that the main thing doesn’t change regardless of how the media package it. Pope Francis is a descendent of Saint Peter, who was appointed by Jesus to build the Church; nothing he says should be received outside of the context of the full breadth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some will present his visit as primarily a political one; they will project his meeting with President Obama, his address to the United Nations, and his address to Congress as the real purpose for his trip.
So I will remember that his visit was announced for the occasion of the World Meeting of Families, an international celebration conceived by Saint Pope John Paul II to strengthen the sacred bonds of the family unit across the globe—a vital expression of Jesus’s Gospel message.
If the media do choose to cover the canonization of Junipero Serra during the pope’s visit, they will probably focus more of their attention on those who oppose this man becoming a saint rather than on his missionary work for the unbaptized.
So I will pray for Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Missionary who spread the Gospel, to intercede for us. I will ask that he not just pray for the pope and the people during his visit, but for the continued spread of the Gospel.
God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for me to save me from my sins. He rose on the third day, and in doing so Jesus triumphed over sin. In matters of my faith, this must always be the main thing.