How do you measure success on a daily basis? What gives you that feeling that it has been a good day? I judge how successful each day is by thinking of what I set out to do versus what I get done. If I do everything on my list and then some, I call it a pretty awesome day. Even if I am close to getting everything done it is still a good day. But if things derail, then I remove the good label and replace it with lousy or terrible, a day best forgotten. Recently, I encountered Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. I discovered in that encounter that my yardstick is all wrong, I need to redefine success.
An amazingly simple, yet fantastic book called, The Better Part, by Fr. John Bartunek burst into my daily life this past Christmas. It is a resource to help in praying over the Gospels and develop the friendship Christ desires with each of us. I’ve had a longing to pray over the Gospels ever since I read in St Therese of Lisieux’s writings that “above all it’s the Gospels that occupy my mind when I’m at prayer.” The only problem is that I always struggled over pulling spiritual riches out of the Gospels, much more so than the rest of the Bible. Well this book changed that. It leads me right into meditative prayer, right into conversation with Christ. And that of course, is changing my life.
The Gospel I was praying over was Matthew 25. The part where Jesus says when we do something for the least we do it for Him. In the Better Part it says: “In the end, all that will matter is what we have done for Christ and our neighbor. We will not be asked how much money we made, how many awards we won, how much we enjoyed ourselves, or how many people we had working under us. We will be asked one question: “What did you do for Me in your neighbor?” The secret to happiness in this life and the life to come is self-giving, self-forgetting love. This counteracts the epidemic of self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-sufficiency that has scourged us since the fall.”
Reality Checking Success
I don’t measure success by what I have done for my neighbor. Even worse, the times I look forward to the most scream self-centered, self-indulging, and self-sufficient. Praying over this Gospel, I found myself in a real dialogue with Christ. The way I defined success must change despite my inclinations to hold tightly to “me-time.”
Some of you reading this might be wondering about my maturity level at this point. How could I not know this? Isn’t this altogether obvious? Well, I don’t know what my problem is but this is a real inner struggle. Yet Jesus, THE Lord, asked me to redefine success. He wants me to simply consider what I do for Him in my neighbor. If I check that box and then some, it is an awesome day. Even if I get close and do at least some things for Him in my neighbor, it is still a good day. And if I do little or nothing for Him in my neighbor, then the day is not successful (no matter what else I get done).
Moving forward I’m trying to build a different type of resume. My days don’t need accomplishments and checked off goals. I’m hoping to make all that secondary. Instead I want to reflect on the day and see if I responded with love when I encountered Jesus in my neighbor. One of my goals for Lent and beyond is to redefine success. If you read this far, keep me in your prayers. One Hail Mary will do.