As the year 2011 nears its end with the onset of Christmas, allow me first to greet all our BCBP leaders and members a very Blessed and Merry Christmas. May each one of us discover the real meaning of Christmas amidst the glitter and gifts that are all too familiar to us that drown the magnificent truth behind Jesus’ coming. I do hope that each year that we celebrate Christmas will bring us closer and closer to the person of Jesus Christ. I think the best Christmas gift and homage we can give to our Lord Jesus is to commit ourselves to His will and be His instrument in doing His work here on earth.
We now have a new Board of Trustees and officers who are tasked to bring the community forward nearer to its vision and mission in the marketplace. The 4th NSPR which sets the community’s directions for the future is completed. We must challenge ourselves to go forth into new territories and deeper into the marketplace.
As our leaders translate the NSPR broad directions into specific activities for the coming years, it is important to discern what the Lord wills for our community. As I noted, the best gift we can possibly give to Jesus is to continue doing His work. Unfortunately, we (and that includes myself) confuse the two concepts of working for God versus doing God’s work. There is an ocean of a difference between the two ideas.
I have many times struggled with this concept myself as a leader in the Brotherhood. I plead guilty to those instances when I just charged forward and prepared plans and as an afterthought asked the Lord to bless what I thought were well-conceived plans. After all, these plans had been the result of discussions and planning sessions with the governance team. Many of us assume that we have been guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. But do they really please the Lord?
A number of times, I had my own doubts. Though very well organized and logical, I wondered whether they were really in accordance with His plan. In retrospect, I think some plans were our own and we just wished the Lord to adopt them as His own. We all need more lessons in discerning how we can do God’s work instead of imposing on him our self-serving plans.
Recently, I read a book, “Darkness in the Marketplace” written by Fr. Thomas H. Green, S. J., one of my favorite authors on Ignatian Spirituality and Discernment where he explained the two concepts of “working for God vs. doing God’s work”. He says that “at first sight, the two phrases appear equivalent but there is a crucial difference between them”.
Fr. Green used a simple analogy of giving a gift to differentiate the two.
There are two alternatives to gift-giving he says. The first is for the giver to try to “guess” what gift will please the recipient. We go and decide what gift will be nice and hope that the gift chosen will be well received and pleasing to the recipient. Doesn’t this look so familiar! How many times have we done this ourselves trying to guess what gift we will give to our spouse, children or friends. The stack of gifts that remain unused is proof enough of the folly of this guessing game.
Fr. Green says that this is like the concept of working for God. We do a lot of things which we hope and pray will please the Lord. We do it our own way and expect the Lord to be pleased with our work.
The other way of giving a gift is asking the recipient directly what he or she wants. The example used by Fr. Green in this instance is if he himself were asked what Christmas gift he wished for, he would have said “blue cheese”.
Blue cheese may however present a bit of a problem to the giver because it is not easy to find and the smell and taste are repugnant to most Filipinos. So his friend may very well reply “Ugh! Blue Cheese?” The giver now has two choices: to buy the blue cheese, repugnant as it may seem to him, or ignore the request and buy another gift of his choice that he thinks will be more suitable than blue cheese.
The example of Fr. Green is quite clear as it applies in real life. We are all guilty of trying to please God by “… choosing what we want to give him, what we want Him to like, what we think He needs and desires.” This is what Martha was trying to do, be busy with the house chores and preparing perhaps a nice meal for Jesus, earnestly hoping to please the Lord. And yet at that point in time, what the Lord wanted was exactly what Mary was doing, just taking in the presence of Jesus by simply waiting on Him. Martha’s way is what it means “working for God” while Mary’s example is doing God’s work. Not that Martha did the wrong thing because surely it was out of love that she was doing the house chores. But Mary’s was the better way.
The point of the “blue cheese” analogy is we do not like to do what the Lord wants because it is inconvenient, difficult, or even very costly in terms of time and resources. We know what he wants but we still refuse to follow his will. We want the Lord to want what we want.
Doing God’s work is like giving the “blue cheese” no matter how repugnant it is. To follow what He wants without conditions is always the way to go because it is based on faith that He will not ask us to do anything without empowering us. It of course requires a deeper level of spiritual maturity to just let go and let God have His way all the time, to subordinate our will to his. This is the goal for all of us, to reach that level of spirituality, that attitude of detachment, that gung-ho mental fortitude, of doing God’s work unconditionally.
This Christmas and next year, shall we give the Lord “Blue Cheese”?