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Fr. Glenn: The Good And Faithful Servant

on August 6, 2017 - 6:49am
By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

Another insult, another “apology”. Have you noticed how often nowadays we see an insult or criticism thrown wildly about by well-known persons, soon followed by an “apology” when they get roundly hammered by social media, commentators, sponsors, etc.? One would like to believe that they had an epiphany of remorse at their poor behavior, but who cannot wonder whether it’s just crocodile tears and an effort to stem the bleeding … especially when advertisers and sponsors (and therefore $$$) are on the line?

The best apology, of course, is given by not offending in the first place. Isn’t it refreshing to read columns or letters to the editor which forward reasoned and polite discourse rather than … not? Graciousness—that virtue which often seems so elusive in our day—is as cool rain upon the desert, much as courtesy is the lubricating oil of smooth social interaction. As the poet writes: “How sweet and gracious, even in common speech / Is that fine sense which men call Courtesy!” (“Courtesy”, James Thomas Fields). St. Paul echoes this when he writes: “Remind [Christians] … to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.” (Titus 3:2), and, of course: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.” (Colossians 4:6)

Hand-in-hand with general courtesy goes another wonderful, and yet often rare, virtue: dependability. The many-centuries-old classic “The Imitation of Christ” exhorts the reader to not place hope o’ermuch in people, knowing that they will always fail you at one time or another; rather place one’s hopes in God—not meaning that we always get what we desire or pray for, because God’s concern is much more the infinite rather than for the temporal, and through Jesus Christ offers His faithful eternal life—regardless of the trials endured on earth. Not that we should become overly cynical or perpetually distrustful of others, but neither should we be disproportionately surprised if they don’t live up to our expectations. 

All of us have no doubt failed others in our lives at one time or another; that’s our human weakness. But certainly we should always strive for excellence—dependability for both God and our neighbor. Reliability is one of the greatest of courtesies. As an example, even King Louis XVIII of France is reputed to have said: “Punctuality is the politeness of kings.” Good advice, and so much more honorable than less-dependable persons ever leaning upon excuses such as “Better late than never,” … forgetting the second verse: “But better never late.”

Dependability encompasses a host of other virtues—honesty and integrity among the highest. Yet where honesty and integrity are lacking, dependability will not exist. And it is one of the finest of compliments to be able to say of someone: “Ol’ Bob—he’s so dependable; he is trustworthy. I can always count on him!” I often advise young people launching out into the world that if they are dependable and trustworthy, they will become an employer’s prized employee ... because, sadly, such persons/workers are increasingly hard to find. Who among us has not had to deal with persons who are always late, do slovenly work, don’t show up when they promise, have sticky fingers, constantly make excuses, etc.? In fact, someone who is dependably unreliable (if that’s not an oxymoron) is easier to deal with than one who vacillates back and forth; at least you know what to expect!

As the author Richard M. Eyre writes:In adults, dependability is the fruit of maturity; in a child, it is the seed.Thus we should all strive for that dependability that brings joy and peace of mind to all with whom we interact. For the Christian, this is a duty, integral in becoming better servants of one another—a virtue we should ever strive to cultivate in ourselves. For did not Jesus (God) Himself become OUR servant? And He says: “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45) And in Luke: “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and certainly to imitate and to emulate Jesus is the sincerest and truest form of discipleship. Let us strive to be dependable servants and imitators of our beloved and wonderful Lord who has served US so munificently.