Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 65:1-7, 16, 20 (Response: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.); Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
A week and a half ago, I gave a talk to a corporate group, and one of the key points was about putting in place an exit plan when one assumes a position of leadership.
Of course, the most “celebrated” warning is from the 19th century British historian Lord Acton, who wrote this in a letter to a bishop and, according to one author, was actually referring to a high ranking Church official: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The Lord gives wise counsel to the 70 disciples in today’s Gospel as they come back from a successful mission. “See, I have given you authority… and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
When I was principal, I always had two young Jesuit seminarians teaching in the high school for two years, the regency years in Jesuit formation. I would always remind them, “When you occupy a position or office leadership, remember, it’s not you. It’s the office.”
Years later, when I was moved to the development and alumni office, we were tasked to prepare for a major capital fund campaign to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the university.
The close-to-five-year preparation period for the launch was a frenzy of meetings, consultations, FGDs, events, projects, etc. to “rally the troops.” Our events almost always turned out very well.
At the end of each event or project, we would have an evaluation meeting. My team got used to my favorite closing line. “Very good! Tama na, baka maniwala tayo sa sarili nating press release.” Then someone would say the usual rejoinder, “Plan na daw for the next event.” Everyone would laugh.
We did things with joy. All of us in the team were there because we believed in the vision and mission of our work.
We were “consumed” by the work, “totus ad laborem,” giving oneself totally to the work.
After this mission, I prayed to God, “Lord, you know I did my best in doing this work you asked me to do. Can I go now?” And so I did. On to the next mission, to help building caring communities in our public schools. The past 14 years were years of successes and failures, satisfaction and stress that transformed what we do and how we do our work, making the “why” clearer.
Truly, our joy and peace, our inspiration and north star now is knowing we are where God wants us to be, and we are doing what he wants us to do.
An epilogue of sorts: Each room in my last office in the Ateneo had a frame with a picture of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ and one of his famous sayings. When people sigh and say, not in a complaining way, “Wow, ang daming trabaho!” I would smile, pick up the frame and show it to them.
We would all laugh. Father Arrupe in his famous zen prayer position reminded us, “Tiene usted la eternidad para descansar.” (You have eternity in which to rest). As we generously do our mission here, we joyfully look forward to eternity in which to rest knowing “our names are written in heaven.” —CONTRIBUTED