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Fr. Glenn: Lifting The Burden

on August 18, 2019 - 8:37am

By Fr. Glenn Jones

As anyone who has managed and supervised people will tell you, there are always those who require more attention and seem to consume an inordinate amount of the supervisor’s time. A common phrase in the military is: “You always have the ten percent”—the ten percent of the people who take up ninety percent of your time. Oddly enough, it most often IS about ten percent.

All of us have probably worked with such—the contrarian, the “less-than-motivated”, the narcissistic who requires everything be centered upon himself/herself, right now! ... the uncooperative, the volatile, the unnecessarily needy, the “overworked” (at least in their own minds if not in anyone else’s), etc. Over and over again the same names come to the fore … and the supervisor, the boss, the teacher, the coworker, sighs. “Not again…” 

Few supervisors mind those who need a bit more attention, and are eager and really trying to do well; they often just need some guidance. After all, sincerity towards adding benefit to the organization goes a long way. One of the best things we can teach young people these days is that dependability and a cooperative spirit makes one a highly-desired partner in any venture, and the most valued persons are those who will work diligently in seeking an organization’s success.

Certainly there are boundaries which need be observed—by both the employed AND the employer. For instance, while an enterprise necessarily requires time and attention, it should not unreasonably deprive of time from family. After all, the end goal of all enterprises is (or should be) the common good and betterment of society. Damaging family relationships—the very building block of society—is, by definition, contrary to that objective. But also contrary to the objective is neglect of one’s employ, whatever it might be.

In the Christian sense, our work is that which “builds up the kingdom of God”—beneficial work in itself being a work of charity in the seeking of the common good. Work at Walmart? Then you help provide necessary goods to society. Work as a plumber? Then your work provides goods and maintains public health (who does not appreciate a good plumber!?!) Work at the national lab? Then your work aids mankind through the myriad effects of research and technology. Even in the weapons program at the lab … there may be debate about the best course of action, but the purpose is not for war or destruction, but rather the maintenance of peace.

And thus ardor in one’s beneficial employment is contribution to the good of society. Those who are in less exalted jobs or occupations may thereby feel less important, but it need not be so. At times we witness the reprehensible tendency by some to negatively judge others by their occupation or education, but such should never forget the old parable of the horseshoe nail: “For want of the nail, the shoe was lost; for want of the shoe, the horse was lost; for want of the horse, the rider was lost; for want of the rider, the battle was lost; for want of the battle, the war was lost.” You may be Mr. Multiple Doctorates … but without the guy fixing the wiring or the guy fixing his truck, or the oil-soaked roughneck on the platform drilling for oil to provide the gasoline for you and he to get there, your work isn’t going anywhere. As scripture reminds us: “All these rely upon their hands, and each is skillful in his own work. Without them a city cannot be established, and men can neither sojourn nor live there. Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people, nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly…But they keep stable the fabric of the world, and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.” (Sirach 38:31-34)

Each person is (or should be) integral in his own way to the good of our society. One can even say that those in (true) need play their own part by eliciting our compassion, and thereby assisting to cultivate one of the greatest of virtues: charity. And in eliciting charity, we diminish its vicious and heinous opposite: selfishness. 

The tug-of-war between virtue and vice is our constant struggle in life, but we are strengthened by remembrance of St. Paul: “…do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh [re:  selfishness and inordinate passions, treating persons simply as things to be used for one’s own gratification/profit], but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself”…walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other…” (Galatians 5:13-17) 

Yes … the perpetual tug-of-war … the perpetual internal combat between virtue and vice, subordinating the desires of self in preference for the good of others. This is what is truly meritorious and worthy of remembrance. After all, it is these things we bring to the fore in eulogies. No one eulogizes fondly: “He looked after himself and cared for no one else. What a guy!” Yes, indeed … what a guy.

So … ardor in one’s faith, ardor in one’s family, ardor for the good of society, and ardor in one’s work is indicative of the person that we are. All of these take time and attention … away from selfishness, and thus are the seeking of virtue. Balance is required, yes … but neglect is not. And we find continued strength and motivation in St. Paul again: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit…Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4)…“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward…” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.