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?
Posted by Fr Chris at 10:47 am