It can be so hard to keep doing good things when it seems like no one cares, right? Well, that might just be when the good that we do most needs to be done. Right when we think that no one cares about how much hard work we’re doing, or maybe they just don’t notice, that’s when we’ve got to just keep right on doing it anyway. Because, you see, what makes the good things we do so valuable is not the thanks we get for doing them.
Instead, our acts of love, I think, might be more valuable when they’re ignored, unseen, or even rejected. Jesus on the Cross might be a good example.
Having just wrapped up our year of formation down here at the Seminary, I’ve gotten a good chance to reflect on the ways I’ve been able to serve. At the end of each year here at the Sem, we’ve got a service award that goes out to the three seminarians voted by each of us to be recognized as exemplary servant leaders.
Now, I’ve got to be honest here, and have a good chuckle at my own expense. I’ve put a whole lot of work into trying to be of service here at the Sem. A lot of it might have to do with taking on too much, not being able to say “no,” or getting a little overly excited about doing as much as I possibly could. Either way, I figured I’d probably be nominated for this award, having clearly taken on way too much in the community, from being in charge of the dishwashers, to getting the student payroll prepared, to being the head Sacristan, to leading a choir, to heading the charge in preparing our class Masses, to everything else that comes along with being a 2nd Year Theology student.
Perhaps one could say that I deserved some kind of recognition for overworking myself.
But as I heard the three names (all very deserving, all very hardworking) called up on our last community get together before we all scattered to the four winds, I was left sitting at my table, part of me wondering: what more would I have to do to be recognized?
Oh Pride, how often you get the best of me! It’s like the lie was trying to plant itself in me: you haven’t done enough, they’re rejecting you, they don’t care how much work you’ve done. But I quickly knew that all to be just one huge lie.
Ok, before judging me (I’m too good at doing that to myself), it’s not like I really wanted the recognition. I had just steeled myself for it and almost expected it. It’s not like I took on all my responsibilities so that I might get any kind of recognition either, but I don’t think any of us would be honest if we tried to say that a little affirmation doesn’t feel pretty darn good sometimes.
So it’s had me thinking, the question we’ve got to ask ourselves is: why do we love? Why do we put our feelings and hopes and fears on the line for someone else? Why do we risk our comfort and our trust on being rejected or ignored? Again, why do we love?
We love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
When we’re at our best, when we’re loving at our best, it’s not just because it gives us some warm feeling inside. It’s not just because we’ll get something out of it. It’s certainly not about making someone owe something back to us. Nope, we love another person, face-to-face, heart-to-heart, because God has loved that person first. And there is no one we will ever meet, EVER, that was not loved by God first. Go ahead and let that sink in… That person I met today and ignored or was short with or rejected, was put into my life by God because he loves that person. Are we rejecting that love? Are we ignoring God’s invitation?
So in my silly moment of feeling like I didn’t get some of the recognition I may have deserved, God was really giving me such great gift. God keeps on reminding me that our love and our service are not about what we can do and what we can be recognized for, but about Him, and drawing others to Him alone. And with that in mind, no kind of recognition, no kind of reward, nothing else matters.