These past few days, the Gospels have emphasized the need for us to become like little children. We hear of the story wherein after so much arguing by the Apostles on who is the greatest, Jesus sat down and called the Twelve around Him and said, “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all and the servant of all” (St. Mark 9: 35, the New American Bible).
Throughout his life on earth, Jesus has always taught us humble service. He has embraced and demonstrated how we should live. He humbly accepted the Father’s will and came to share fully in our humanity, except sin. He has taught us how to win in life without really trying. Serving others should therefore be our life’s greatest reward.
Fr. Armand Robleza, author of the inspiring book The Code of Champions aptly captures this when he said “Champions see themselves as servants to life. This is their abiding attitude that guarantees a sense of fulfillment and happiness. In a sense, we have to give an answer to life’s fatal query: why am I here? Why am I gifted with life? Why me and not somebody else? (The Code of Champions, p. 54)
Again, last Saturday, the Gospel tells us of humility; this was when the disciples were scolding the people for bringing their little children to Jesus to have him touch them. However, “Jesus became indignant when he noticed it and said to them: Let the children come to me and do not hinder them. It is to such as this that the kingdom of God belongs” (St. Mark 10:13-14).
Little children are the epitome of innocence, humility, simplicity, freedom from malice, and dependence. Like little children, God wants us to be humble, endowed with simplicity, and dependence on Him. However, according to the world, being “successful” is defined differently. We want to be the first, we must win every game of life, we must drive the latest car models, we go to the best restaurants and have the latest gadgets available. All point to being at the top, to being above everyone else. Also most of us like to be seen as powerful, moneyed, and influential. If we use power, money, and influence to “buy” court decisions, steal from public funds, and thus grow more wealth the immoral way, then it deprives the poor and the needy of healthcare, food, decent shelter, education, employment, and decent living.
St. Paul warns us that if we are to be true servants of God, we must seek the Lord’s approval rather man’s: “Whom would you say I am trying to please at this point — men or God? Is this how I seek to ingratiate myself with men? If I were trying to win man’s approval, I would surely not be serving Christ!” (Galatians 1:10).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to be competitive at work, it is even beneficial as long as our motivation is to glorify God, to multiply the talents that He has gifted us with, to compete with our own selves, and not just to beat all the others in the office, just for the sake of being the best. It’s about a genuine, healthy pride and authentic humility that comes from within our souls. This is the kind of pride that encourages us to do great passion in all that we do, whether it’s work or play. This rises from the inner security and healthy self-esteem that which only springs from within the inner depths of our souls.
Our lives are meant to be reflections of God’s glory and awesomeness. Our talents and capabilities are simply His gifts and therefore it is just right that we work hard and contribute huge to society and to our companies, but it is equally important to give back to Him with obedience and humility. This is not for God’s benefit, because He is already perfect, but it is for our own. Becoming persons of humility and simplicity will make us more accepting of God’s will for our lives, for His molding us to become more like Him.
This can’t be possible though if we are filled with pride and envy, when we believe that all that we are now, is due to our own efforts and capabilities. We wrongly think that we deserve what we have after working hard for it. We all got egos. However, this is wrong. Believing that what we are is solely our own achievement is being unmindful of God’s gifts and blessings. It’s ignoring His directions and protection as we go on our daily lives, thinking that we can do all on our own. Such pride will eventually destroy us, corrupt our minds, and bring evil intentions seamlessly into our nature. Once one is immersed in such a world, it may be difficult to get out of it, unless one humbles himself and return back to God’s fold. Yes, it’ll take humility and godly strength to accept and submit to God’s greatness and obey Him. Being humble must be the most difficult of all and yet it is the foundation of all virtues. Humility means strength under control.
A few days ago, I was informed that my cousin Dr. Jill gave birth to her second child, this time, a bouncing baby girl. Giving birth is an occasion and milestone for families because a baby gives us happiness and hope. They are blessings from the Lord and they remind us that no matter what, life goes on. They remind us of our very own childhood, free from malice, humble and dependent on our parents and guardians. They remind us how fragile life is, not only when we were still little children, but even now, and eventually much more as we grow older. Such experiences remind us of the wonders of life and the greatness of lives dedicated to pleasing God.
Inspirational writer J.M. Farro said that when we make it our life’s goal to please the Lord, the result is joy, peace, and fulfillment. This springs from love and humble submission to God’s plan unfolding everyday of our lives. Consequently, when we aim to please others, the result would be frustration and disappointment, even emptiness. Pleasing God therefore is the only decent and happy way to live.
May the Lord give us the courage and the strength to resist the temptation to be boastful and we always be reminded that, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Psalm 23:1).