Monday, June 13, 2011

For Whose Glory?

The other day I saw an opportunity to do something for God. A good deed was being done by a group in the parish, but I saw what I perceived as a lacking in follow through by the project organizers, perhaps out of fear that enough volunteers could be found to complete the good deed. And so I offered myself to the project leader, to do those more difficult things involved, to do something even greater, in total, for the glory of God.

The project leader was most gracious in response to my offer. “You are a wonderful man to be so giving of yourself. We had considered expanding the project as you suggested, but found in looking back to prior years’ efforts, that the project goals were considered achieved with the smaller number of volunteers we knew we could raise. However, you are so kind with your offer, that I shall try to convince the other leaders involved to allow you to do the greater good you wish as part of this project. Your commitment is an example for us all.”

Stop and think. Did you see it? Did you see what happened?

I saw an opportunity to give greater glory to God, but it was subtly changed into an opportunity to give greater glory to me. And the unsaid question was heard in my mind: Do you want this glory? Fortunately, something struck my heart as both good and yet somewhat unsettling in the leader’s response to my offer. My initial inclination was to defer the praise given me in with polite words, and then offer thanks to the project leader for letting me do the work I had volunteered to do (this wonderful work of mine that others would see me do). Fortunately, that little niggling of uncomfort delayed my response, and my eyes were opened as to what was going on.

How often do we pray the words: “Not my will, but Thy Will be done, oh Lord”, but do we look for His answer? We need constantly to question our intentions even for those actions which we think are good. Temptation comes to us in many forms, and perhaps especially to hijack God’s blessings, and obscure those things which would give Him glory. My initial intentions in this instance were good, but they were subtly deflected, from actions for His glory into actions for mine. But, you may ask, if we worried beforehand about all possible implications of our actions, then how would we ever even start a good work? True, but what I am saying my friend, is that our eyes and hearts need to consider constantly: For whose glory do we act? Is someone being helped --- this is good. Does someone begin to act for God or open their heart to God --- this is good. Is no discernable result seen by others except our praised action --- this may not be good.

Now, I constantly give God thanks when He shows me that my good works have had good results, and especially those where normally I would not see the results. The man who told me why he did a good deed: because he saw me do one. The person who thanked me for praying for them: the prayers were answered. For me to know these things is a good thing, for they give me encouragement: my life and my commitment to Him matters. I thank God for these little consolations to me, which show me I am on the right path (I so worry about losing my way), and the His consolations help defer the little temptations I sometimes hear: “Why are you doing this? What does it matter?”

And then God shows me, again. What I do matters to Him. Praise God!

The lesson to be learned here today is that our intentions may start out good, as mine did, but they can be turned into a temptation for us, and that our pride and ego are great sources of temptation. To be specific, the lesson is this: Whenever we receive praise, an alarm should be sounding in our head: To whose glory is this praise being given? If the greater glory, as seen among men, is to ourselves, we should re-consider our efforts. All glory belongs to God. Even if our intentions remain pure, if as a result of our actions much glory is given to us, we should re-consider those actions. Are we doing things only to gain praise for ourselves? God knows our hearts, whether we take physical actions or not, but men only see things of this world. Our actions should inspire them to greater actions, not to sit back and admire us.

Our climbing a mountain, even if we say it is for the glory of God, serves no purpose except possible temptation to us, if no one else ventures to climb. When you hear praise, alarm! Whose greater glory is being done here? Will my actions give more glory to God among men, or to me?

Having thus considered my intentions and what my work would really accomplish, today I will send a polite decline to the program leader’s offer “to me”, to let “me” do something noteworthy. It is unneeded for God.

And, I realize, it is unneeded for me.

Each day I pray the little prayer to St. Paul, shown on the sidebar of this blog: “Help us to become apostles serving the Church with a pure heart, witnesses to her truth and beauty …” Not mine.

And some days, our prayers are answered.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonderful things.

Our Father … for Thine is the kingdom, and the power --- and the glory --- now and forever. Amen.

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