Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot
Anything That’s Worth Doing…

Readings: Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 51:3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 and 17; Matthew 10:16-23
Picture: CC rodliam

We’ve probably all heard the adage anything that’s worth doing, is worth doing well. It expresses something that’s quite central to what it means to be a Singaporean. Or at least that’s what we’d like to think. It speaks of the importance of striving for excellence in all that we do. And there’s truth in that. If, for example, being a student is something worth doing, then work hard at it. Be a good student. If being a teacher is worth doing, then put your heart and soul into it – into preparing your lessons and caring for your students. If teaching is worth doing, then do it well.

But, as with most things, there’s also a shadow side to the relentless search for excellence, isn’t there? Don’t we sometimes allow our preoccupation with being the best prevent us from attempting things are still worth doing even if we are not likely to excel in them? Not everyone can be an “A” student. Not everyone can be an ace teacher. Should the rest of us not study? Should the rest of us not teach?

The same tendency to refrain from doing what’s worth doing for fear of failure or inadequacy is found in the spiritual life too. The Mass readings for today draw our attention to two areas in which this can happen. In the first reading, repentance is presented to us as something worth doing. Provide yourselves with words and return to the Lord… This is a call that we all need to hear, at least from time to time. But isn’t it tempting, when we do feel the need to go for confession, for example, to think along the following lines? After confession, I’m probably going to commit the same sins again. So what’s the point of confessing? If I can’t repent well, why repent?

The gospel presents another thing that’s worth doing – bearing witness to Christ. And Jesus paints quite a bleak and even frightening picture of the trials that await those who respond positively to this call. Faced with such a challenging mission, isn’t it tempting to think: I’m not really worthy or qualified enough, or courageous or holy enough. I won’t be able to do it well. Better to leave it the professionals and the experts?

And yet, upon deeper reflection, we realize that such an approach is unworthy of true disciples of Christ. For in our efforts at repentance and witnessing – indeed in the whole of the spiritual life – what is crucial is not so much our own excellence as our openness to the loving providence of God. I will love them with all my heart… I am like a cypress ever green, all your fruitfulness comes from me… Do not worry about how to speak or what to say… the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you… Can we help but be reminded of the Parable of the Prodigal Son? There, even though the prodigal provides himself with words and returns to his father, he never quite finishes his speech before his father rushes to him and lavishes his love upon him, enfolding him in the warmth of his embrace, ushering him into the joyful security of his household.

If this is true, then it’s important that we not be too obsessed with excellence – with doing everything well and finishing everything we start – to the point that we are prevented from attempting something worthwhile. Indeed, in today’s gospel, doesn’t Jesus imply that the mission given to the apostles (and to us) will not be completed before the Son of Man comes? Of course, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t put our heart and soul into everything we do. But could it be that while it is true that things that are worth doing are worth doing well, it’s no less true that anything that’s worth doing is worth doing… even badly?

What are the things that are worth doing in your life today?


  1. Hi Father, I m turning 21. I m friend of therese and my name is clarissa. My email add:

    The breaking of the word is very meaningful to me. I learn from st peter and paul to follow god in different way being a priest, a sister or lay people.

    God have entered to your life and my life and other people life in different way to help the poor, in need and other way.

    I am very happy to be called a child of god. He have give me a wonderful life, family. friend and priest and other thing in my life.

    I wonder when will god will send someone to do something for me

  2. Haha! One thing worth doing today is to keep posting comments in this blog?

    In Luke 10:42, Jesus spoke of Mary having chosen the one thing that was truly necessary (listening to him). If only there's just one necessary thing for me to do each day!

    In my experience, there are so many things worth doing that it's often a tough choice! And many times, I wonder whether I'm neglecting to do more worthy things.

    Anyway, this weekend, I'll be teaching a catechism lesson to a group of easily bored youths. I know I don't have the gift of the gab. And I have not conducted years of research on that area. So, I will only try my best and pray that the the Spirit of our Father will be speaking in me. Please pray for me too, if you remember.

  3. Another reflection that cuts close to the bone in efficiency-obsessed Singapore. :)

    I have always believed that, if anything is worth doing, it's worth doing well - insyallah as Muslims say. That's why it pains me to see something done half-heartedly, half-done or worse, abandoned mid way. What a waste, I always say.

    The philosophy of doing things well pre-supposes that one has thought long and hard about what it is that one is about to do, because doing things right is not the same as doing the right thing. This requires true wisdom, the type that is un-worldly.

    The danger with pre-occupation with excellence, as Fr Chris rightly put it, is that it can blind us to everything and everyone else. I know: I have witnessed it with my own eyes. Again, unworldly wisdom is needed to put everything in perspective, as the Scripture readings today teach.

    PS: After a drought of ten days, it's good to bask in Fr Chris' daily refreshing reflections again.

  4. Hello Father,

    Personally I feel it is the fear of not being good enough in something or some task and knowing that the outcome may not be up to mark in the eyes of those we aim to please, that often stops or hinders us in setting out to doing something. This hesitation or seeming lack of heart is caused by the expectation that Fr Chris you mentioned that all things must be done well. But perhaps God loves the effort more than the outcome ? If we trust our hearts more and strive to do things out of love and service rather than merely getting the job done perfectly all the time we may perhaps be able to lead more meaningful and enriching lives ?


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