Friday 31 May 2013

The Grumpy Worker

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Just a few days ago I was struck by a thunderbolt. No, not a real thunderbolt; but rather a grace-filled thunderbolt that knocked me off my spiritually grumpy behind. It was a moment of enlightenment, a moment of grasping reality for what it was, and truthfully approaching it. Thanks to a seemingly spontaneous examination of the ministry work that I had done for the past few months, I realized that I have been approaching my ministry as if it were a chore: complete it, and get it over and done with. I was stuck in a mindset that I could enjoy myself by doing the things that I liked only after completing such tasks. Such an approach made me spiritually grumpy when I was doing ministry.

This thunderbolt of grace was painful when it struck me, as I was able to behold my spiritual state in a moment of clarity and honesty: in contrary to what I would have liked to believe, I have not fully given my will and life over to Jesus. There was much that I was clinging onto, something from which I didn’t want to part. This, in turn, led to a certain compartmentalization of my duties: what belongs to the Lord will fit in these hours, and then I shall have all that free time for myself! Yay! Get it over with, and I can enjoy my freedom afterwards. Ministry became an obstacle to exercise my heart’s content. What did that make the people to whom I ministered? Each one was just another person to “finish off” so I could move on to the next.

What accompanied this enlightenment at that moment was Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Mark: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake …” (Mk 10:29-30) The problem was that I had not left such things behind. Furthermore, I have amassed new things – more material things such as books that I do not need, spending more time watching shows and movies – since joining the Jesuits, and these have held me back even more! I am not yet free to follow Jesus for His sake and for the Gospel’s sake.

This resulted in an intense desire to re-examine, and subsequently a renewal of my commitment to Jesus, to the mission that he has entrusted to me through the Society of Jesus. It was a decision that came from somewhere deep within me. Having done this, I soon began to see each of my ministries as a gift from God – a gift because I have been given the opportunity to meet God’s precious children and share with them the Gospel of our Lord, which is life itself. Since that moment of enlightenment, each person to whom I minister has become immensely important. My moments of ministry have since then become moments of prayer and encounter with God.

I am surprised by how much and how quickly my outlook on my ministries changed since “the thunderbolt”. I must admit, however, that the first few days were rather challenging; I had to work hard to shed my old way of thinking. It was difficult, but it was joyful. In fact, ministry has become joyful. We cannot compartmentalize our lives this way: our time of leisure, our time of work, our time of fellowship, all belong to the Lord. That is why we are called Christians. Once I realize this and begin to live it, the distinction between ministry and my “personal time” disappears, and there only time that remains is “Jesus and me” time. How long will this new commitment last? I do not know, but I trust in God’s grace to sustain and strengthen me in it. “Thy will be done!”

While my sharing was centred on ministry work, this can equally apply to you, our dear readers. You may also resonate with my struggle in compartmentalizing your time as “Jesus time” and “my time”. Put on my Christian hat here, then take it off there. We are “full-out Christians” with our Christian friends, but not so with other friends. It is not easy; the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage is needed. This is a gift that all of us should ask for. It is also helpful to have a periodic self-examination or check-in.

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