One of the best examples of living the core purpose is the case of Merck & Company, one of the seven largest pharmaceutical companies in the world today, employing about 76,000 worldwide. In the late 1970’s Merck research scientists discovered a potential cure for a severely debilitating human disease known as river blindness. The parasite, which carries the disease through the bite of black flies that breed on the rivers of Africa and Latin America, causes severe itching, disfiguring skin infections, and, finally, total and permanent blindness. As in the protocols for medicine development, in order to demonstrate that it was safe and effective, the drug needed to undergo expensive clinical trials. Executives were concerned because they knew that those who would benefit from using it could not afford to pay for the drug, even if it was sold at cost. However, Merck research scientists argued that the drug was far too promising from a medical standpoint to abandon. Executives relented and a seven-year clinical trial proved the drug both efficacious and safe. A single annual dose of Mectizan, the name Merck gave to the drug, kills the parasites inside the body as well as the flies that carry the parasite.
Despite having no funding support from the U.S. Government, Merck executives decided to manufacture and distribute the drug for free. Since 1987, Merck has manufactured and distributed over 700 million tablets of Mectizan at no charge. Truly inspiring and awesome considering the staggering costs involved! The company’s decision to give the drugs for free? Well, it was grounded in its core values, which are “driven by a desire to improve life, achieve scientific excellence, operate with the highest standards of integrity, expand access to our products and employ a diverse workforce that values collaboration.”
George W. Merck, the company’s president from 1925 to 1950, summarized these values when he wrote, “medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered that, the larger they have been.” At the time of that critical decision, Merck was focused on its core purpose of “alleviating human suffering”, no matter the cost. (Ateneo Graduate School Case Study)
This Sunday’s Gospel tells of Jesus sending the Apostles to mission, two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts. (Mk. 6: 7-8) Here we can see Jesus equipping His disciples with power and authority in order to give them confidence. However, he also reminded them to bring only the essentials to the mission. No extra baggage. Non-essentials won’t affect the mission work, thus, Jesus didn’t prescribe bringing those. He also gave instructions on specific situations so that the Apostles won’t find it difficult. Just like the Apostles, while earthly provisions aren’t part of the tools to bring, Jesus equips us with more than enough stuff to deal with challenges in the spiritual warfare being waged. We only have to trust completely and believe in His promises.
When we know our purpose, our lives become more meaningful. We become relentless, we become unstoppable in pursuing it. Just like the fine examples showed earlier, with passion for our mission, we become valiant and faithful.