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Accomplishment vs. Meaning: What Drives You?

I have been reflecting on what fulfills me.  What is it that motivates me in what I do?  Ultimately, I am trying to fulfill God’s will for me.  Initially one might think it should be easy to do God’s will.  Yet, it can be challenge.  The first thing to work on is discerning what it is that God wants us to do.  Then one needs to figure how to go about doing it.

In thinking about what I am supposed to be doing, I ask myself what makes me feel fulfilled.  This leads me to think about “accomplishments” versus “meaning.”

When I worked as an engineer, it was easy to know when a task was complete.  The job was not done until the bridge was fully complete and cars were able to drive over it safer.  (In reality it is more complicated than that but for the engineer it was clear when the job was done.)  Some of the tasks I did as an engineer might take a few hours.  Replacing a bridge spanned several months.  Regardless of how long it took, it was easy to see what was accomplished.

I find it is not so easy to define what is accomplished in ministry.  I know when a baptism is completed.  I know when Mass is over.  I know when I am done with confessions.  But there is always more.  Some things are a little harder to measure.  I know when I visit the hospital and how many people I see but there is no end to that.  I know when I have finished giving a presentation but as soon as I finish one I am often already beginning to give some thought to the next one.

There are “accomplishments” in ministry but the ultimate accomplishment of ministry is leading people to Jesus and that is hard to measure.

What brought me back to Church and what I seek in life is “meaning.”  After years of not going to church, I started to realize something was missing in my life.  God helped me realize that what I needed was to improve my relationship with him.  Through my return to Church and my studies I have found a deeper relationship with Jesus.  I have been ordained for almost ten years and I still continue to work on my own relationship with Jesus.  This means that I continue to read and look for other opportunities to learn so as to deeper my own relationship with Jesus.

Working in ministry, I have found that helping others deeper their relationship with Jesus actually helps me too.  The part of my ministry where this is most evident is in the presentations I do.  For many of the presentations I do the material covered is either based on some book(s) I have read recently or I actually do some research to address a topic of interest to people.  In that preparation I learn more myself.  I also find some grace in offering what I know to the people to help them know more about their faith.

I also try to celebrate the sacraments in a while that shows meaning.  Baptism is not simply a task but it is a life changing moment.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not simply a mechanical process of listing one’s sins, doing a penance, and being absolved.  This Sacrament helps us receive God’s mercy and to explore what grace we need to do better.  Celebrating Mass is not simply so we can say we fulfilling our obligation to go to church.  I try to celebrate Mass in a way that shows God offers us something very profound in hearing his Word from the Bible and what we celebrate in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.  My point being, celebrating the sacraments is much more for me than accomplishing a task.  I truly believe the Sacraments go much deeper and I try to celebrate the Sacraments in a way that makes that clear.

I admit that I enjoy seeing some things finished.  However, what matters most is finding meaning and helping others to do the same.  It is hard for me to know when I am doing this.  Please pray that I always serve God how, where, and when He wants.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

One Comment

  1. Linda House says:

    I think our society is so “accomplishment oriented” that checking something off the list or “getting it done” becomes its meaning. This blog helps me reflect on true meaning especially as it relates to our faith. I also think finding true meaning is more difficult. Finding meaning for me is tied to understanding.

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