Seeking our Motives

And whatever you do,
in word or deed,
do everything
in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks
to God the Father
through him. – Col. 3:17

“In the name of”? What does that mean? Well, in one sense you could say it means acting in a person’s stead, with their authority and with their reputation at stake as you represent them in your actions. In another sense, a name in the ancient world is a deeply personal (and real) expression of one’s core identity and character. And so to do something in the “name” of another is to pledge to act in accord with that person’s character. So, St. Paul is telling us to do all we do, fully aware that in every moment we represent (re-present) Jesus Christ in the measure that we act in accord with his character (which is the whole meaning of Philippians 2:1-11).

But I want to dig deeper into how living “in the Name” should shape us.

What drives you in your daily work? What keeps you doing your work every day? Gets you through challenges? Makes you give your best and not take the path of least resistance? I led a small group recently in examining these “motive” questions, and did so to great effect. Then, using a question-answer format, we explored the three core motives St. Josemaría Escrivá articulates which faith should animate in us as we work toward excellence in all we do.

First, do we do our work for love of God? Do we seek God’s glory above human praise and affirmation? Do we maximize use of every gift he has given us to glorify him? Do we see our work-excellence as the precious material for our daily offering, to be joyfully offered at the next Mass as our “acceptable” sacrifice? Do we sense that (especially) our arduous work is really Christ longing for us to allow him to labor in the world in, with and through us?

Second, do we glory in the opportunity to be personally transformed in our work for the better? Do we happily see the opportunities for virtue that super-abound in work as worthy challenges coming from the Heart of Christ to “pick up your cross and follow me”? For example, do we hear a call to mature in prudence in every complicated and difficult situation? To grow in justice when we are surrounded by gossipers or backstabbers? To become more patient when we are faced with human ineptitude? To exercise fortitude when we see wrongdoing that demands confrontation? To cultivate humility when we fail, or are unfairly ignored and overlooked? To practice enemy-love when faced with pettiness, spite or acts of revenge?

Third, do we rejoice in the power we have been given to influence others for good? What are the good fruits of our work in our workplace? Do we create a micro-culture around ourselves that makes space for others to see, encounter and grow closer to God — or just become better humans? What fruits come through work friendships or our daily social interactions?

Escrivá also argues that professional prestige closely linked to these three work-motives can be a potent means of grace that allows God to act in the world under our influence in far more radical ways. Especially when people can see that it is our faith that makes a tangible difference in our work ethic, maturity, joyful spirit or behavior, it makes of us far more plausible witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus the Worker. There’s always going to be an endless litany of reasons for us to not give our best in what we do in our work, but faith provides us with a constant motive as immovable as a Rock.

As St. Mark reminds us, Jesus astounded the people “beyond all measure,” causing them to say, “He has done all things well!” (7:37).

May the same be said of us, by our free and generous cooperation with the laboring grace of God.

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