Fr. Glenn: Intentional Mediocrity

first_imgBy Fr. Glenn Jones“If the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.”I vividly remember that statement from an acquaintance years ago … and not fondly. He was quite happy to perform the very least required of him and, as you can imagine, eventually the minimum wasn’t good enough and, while still in the same profession, his peers have risen in the ranks around him while he remains mired at the lowest level.The result? Complaints of being treated unfairly; after all, hasn’t he been working there much longer than the others? “Don’t I do what is [minimally] required?” One can’t help but wonder:  “Well … what did he expect?”, and it reminds of the scripture: “The soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” (Proverbs 13:4)  Undependable … unreliable … his effort spent in seeking every opportunity and excuse to avoid productive labor. Last to work, first to leave, etc.We’ve all probably known such; every office and worksite has them (you’re thinking about some right now, I’d bet!)—those who refuse to go the extra mile—or even the extra inch—for the good of the family, group, organization or goal. In fact, sometimes those who work with them have to drag them to the finish! (think of Wally in the comic strip “Dilbert”… but less witty).  Many times employers simply endure it because it’s more bother than it’s worth to find someone else—especially in our current litigious society. “If they fire me, I’ll sue!” is a laggard’s threat, so the employer makes the inevitable cost analysis: time and $$$ vs. is it worth the trouble. And so, the employer often just tolerates, even though “Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard …” (Proverbs 10:26) Not exactly a positive tribute for anyone.Oh, and let’s not forget in families. How often we priests and ministers witness people caring and spending for elderly/sickly relatives, while other family members and ostensible long-time friends—even if locally present and able—hardly lift a finger. One hates to be harsh, but if the neglectors are the neglected’s children, the term “ingrate” comes to mind, I’m afraid … especially remembering “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; and what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (Sirach 7:27-28) Conversely, dutiful attentiveness will no doubt redound to the diligent caregivers’ eternal glory, while the neglectful … not so much. The latter in St. Paul’s time merited one of his most severe admonitions: “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)Prison ministers often comment about the ingenuity and industriousness of criminals in committing crimes, and how the same energies applied to legal and productive pursuits would have resulted in an incomparably more honorable result, not to mention continued freedom. Similarly, there is no hiding a dawdling spirit and work ethic, and the slacker’s reputation will always be one peppered with disdain. How much more honorable, then, is diligence in one’s work, occupation, or vocation … to be known as one upon which others can rely, to always seek to put out 110%, to be the go-to person in time of need. The virtuous should be content with humble service and not seek honors, but honor comes nonetheless to the dependable, the reliable, the self-motivated. That principle touches on the contrast between two of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount admonitions which, on the surface, might seem to contradict, but the key lay in intent: “…when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men.” (Matthew 6:2) compared to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)The sincere Christian knows this … not only because of Jesus’ own words (which should be quite sufficient!), but later also through the teaching of St. Paul: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) and “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men…” (Colossians 3:23) Thus, since fruitful labor helps to build up society and the kingdom of God, sincere service leads toward the final end—the goal—of the Good. This ought be reward enough to the Christian who remembers his fealty to God and the plethora of gifts already received and promised—not seeking his own temporal glory, but remembering Jesus: “…when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)I pray that young people especially take note for, in an era in which so much is simply given with little effort required, and young people are often protected from anything that might possibly upset them (“safe spaces”), a distressing sense of entitlement has wormed its way into many a psyche—so much so as to become the object of comedy and ridicule, and bane of both employers and families. Stepping back to take in the larger view, Jesus’ wisdom rings ever more true: “… let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26) … because entitlement takes, while service gives, and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Act 20:35) “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man without sense;and lo, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:30-34)Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.last_img

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