One of the great obstacles to progress in a community or organization is the “flavor-of-the-month” syndrome.
Media plays a big factor here—what hogs the headlines receives the greatest public attention, until another “raging” issue becomes the new flavor of the month.
Stephen Covey contends that classifying matters as “urgent” is counterproductive. Instead he suggests the use of the term “important.”
The flavor-of-the-month syndrome combined with the sense of “urgency” often brings superficial results to an endeavor.
This Sunday’s Gospel succinctly delivers the message that substance and depth come from deciding and choosing what is important and essential. We see this in one short phrase: “…all because of My name.”
It reminds us that in the midst of trials and tribulations, we do and endure all things because of Christ.
I remember being in a meeting of officers of a company whose competitors have dislodged it from the top position in the industry.
What led to the company’s downturn was the reactionary stance taken by its leaders. It no longer lived according to its core identity and values; its actions, or reactions, were defined by its competitors.
In the company meeting, a senior officer told the younger ones, “Let us stop reacting and simply focus on what we do best. Let us dig deep into what has always been our core values.”
This served to reduce the panic; slowly the company rediscovered its core, identity and values which were lost in the crisis. It redefined the competition and continues to enjoy good market leadership today.
The return to its core identity and values became the company’s guiding light.
This is also true in our Christian faith—returning to our core identity as followers of Christ, and preserving our core values, best exemplified in the Paschal Mystery.
The other night I was in another meeting, this time with people who were doing a project for public schoolchildren. There has been a discussion on the confusion the past few weeks: the devastation of the Visayas, the cacophony of opinions on the pork barrel scam including the muddling of the key issues.
The sense of crisis and anarchy is overwhelming.
In our conversation, we agreed that, in moments of crisis, one can either break down or undergo a defining moment.
Someone in the meeting recalled a misfortune he suffered almost 10 years ago. After spending time in the Philippines, his family was supposed to go back to the US. But, in the airport, his mother was barred from leaving due to problems with her travel documents.
The family was in tears. Yet, in that moment of crisis, it decided not to leave and just stay with the mother.
With this sudden change of plans came great uncertainty. They were not sure how they would support themselves, but the decision to stick it out with their mother had been made.
Then came the turning point. A family member was discovered by a talent scout a few months later and thus began his meteoric rise to stardom. He was one of the guys in the meeting.
He said that he would always look back on that moment. Had his family decided to go back to the US he would not be who he is now—a celebrity and idol of the masses, an influential presence who is able to give back what he has achieved.
As he told this story, one could see and feel how grounded he was, how real he was in an entertainment industry where one almost always needs to sort out the truth from the press release.
This is the lesson in today’s Gospel. We must not rush in the midst of the urgent or run to where the fad is. Be steady. Be constant. Be rooted and grounded in one’s core identity and values.
It will guide us well now and in the coming months and years, as we heal and rebuild our lives from the disasters wrought by the earthquake and typhoon. This time of crisis can be our defining moment.
We can still be the best of who we are as a people and as a nation, if we make this a moment of soul-searching and discover our core identity as a people and our core values as a nation.
In the aftermath of “Yolanda,” I ended my day celebrating Mass. The Gospel was about the healing of the 10 lepers, with only one leper returning to Christ to thank him.
That day was a rough day. There was so much negativity, so much blaming. Simply put, it was toxic. Everybody seemed to have a clear opinion on what the problems were, but there was hardly a voice that offered a solution.
At Mass, I found myself asking the community to offer thanks to God for all the kindness and compassion we have been receiving from the international community, for the small and unnoticed acts of heroism of ordinary people who, amid the devastation and their own misfortune, still lent a helping hand to make things better for more people.
I found myself asking the community to pray to give thanks and to do good, to do small acts of kindness to help us as a people and nation heal from this disaster.
Crisis has a way of refining all of us. As we say in the vernacular, “lumalabas ang katotohanan”—the truth of who we are comes out.
Amid this national crisis, we can rediscover our core identity as a people, our core values as a nation, as Filipinos, yes, but also a predominantly Christian nation. We are Christians, and as Christians we will always be at our best when we live out the pattern of the Cross and the Resurrection in the day to day.
We are Catholic Christians whose core value is one of gratitude and offering, giving back, the Eucharist, the Mass; a life lived out of gratitude and out of gratitude to give back, to share with others. Again, not simply to give, but to give back out of gratitude.
Yes, it is understandable for us to be confused, to panic amid catastrophe. But, as Christ puts it simply in today’s Gospel, “…all because of My name.”