How Do You Contribute to the World?
by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them (a scholar of the law) tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
The instant-response feature of many Internet news reports provides a platform for often provocative comments. After a news account reporting the death of Steve Jobs, the genius apple computer entrepreneur, "Elijah from Portland, USA," aside from his anti-altruistic taunt, raises an interesting (and frankly, quite common) contrast. He writes, "I would take 1/2 of a Steve Jobs over 500,000 Ghandis and 500,000 Mother Teresas any day of the week. Jobs contributed to the world, while the other two were sanctimonious hypocrites who parasitism and obdurate deceptiveness have been strategically deified by politically correct traitors, RIP Steve Jobs." While we can all agree in our prayers that Steve Jobs rests in peace, what does it mean to "contribute to the world" and how do we recognize the contribution?
In thoughtful moments, most people have a desire to contribute in some way to the world. From the rocket scientist launching astronauts into space to the fast-food cook flipping burgers, "job satisfaction" comes not only with a paycheck, but also with a sense that one's work somehow makes life for oneself or others easier, safer, healthier, more enjoyable and pleasurable.
There have been many magnificent contributions to the world: the internal combustion engine making transportation easy and often enjoyable; monster farm equipment making farming efficient and food plentiful; computer and satellite technology facilitating the instantaneous sharing of information; the development of antibiotics and vaccines that save so many lives. Of course there have been inventions that are more problematic in the grand scheme of things such as weapons of mass destruction, viruses for use in germ warfare, jumbo jets, when under the control of terrorists, or iPhones, when used for texting while driving. Brilliant inventions and impressive technological progress in themselves may "contribute to the world," but depending upon use, the contributions may or may not make the world a better place to live. Something more is needed.
St. Paul warns of the futility of every human endeavor that is undertaken without love. He writes, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing," (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Love is the primary ingredient that ought to direct all enterprise and every venture. Most would agree there is nothing controversial in this assertion, provided the definition of love is limited to the usual Hallmark greeting card platitudes. In any case, we are making progress in our quest to recognize "contributions to the world." The contributions must be loving and good.
How do we know what is really good? After all, many people hold that racial bigotry is good; that pornography is playful, harmless and even therapeutic; that "test-tube babies" and embryonic stem-cell research serve life; that an injection of a death serum to end the life of a suffering human being is "merciful." Others, including Catholics, argue to the contrary: These things are not good and merciful, but evil and degrading. In the quest to recognize authentic "contributions to the world," it is imperative to ask in these maters, "Who is right? "In the Gospel, after being addressed as "good teacher," Christ responds, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." God alone defines "good." Hence, attempts to redefine what is good without reference to God inevitably lead to relativism and the painfully common modern-day horrors. Love is good and true good is godly.
In this week's Gospel, Christ confirms the two great commandments upon which all others depend: Love God and love neighbor. It is the love of God that shows us how to love our neighbor. In discovering God through the Church, we discover goodness and, in our response of love for God, are given the grace to authentically love others. Love is the reason the Word took flesh and dwelt among us. And the highest form of love is sacrificial, a love of the other without regard for self: "Greater love than this no man has than to give up his life for his friends." This is the love of Christ on the cross. This is the love a mother has for a child or a soldier has for his buddies. It is the love of contemplative religious who have left everything to love God in prayer and to pray for us in the world. Mother Teresa abbreviated Christ's command with her simple maxim, "Love until it hurts"
The research and development that goes into every invention, every advance in technology, must go beyond the love for money and pleasure to truly "contribute to the world." It "hurts" for a scientist to refuse biomedical research that violates God's law. It "hurts" from a monetary and career point of view for a nurse or an anesthesiologist to refuse to participate in a sterilization procedure. It "hurts" for parents to guard their children from the impurity of television and the Internet. These things "hurt" but they truly "contribute" to a culture of love and life.
Steve Jobs was born out of wedlock in 1955. His biological parents (and the laws of our nation) were godly enough to allow for his adoption. In a post-Roe v. Wade nation, how many unborn computer geniuses with God-given talent have the same chance to "contribute to the world?" Please, God, may we always use ever "contribution to the world" in a godly way. Steve Jobs, may God reward you for your contributions to the world and may you rest in peace.
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