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In working to provide for our economic needs, it is very easy to mistake the means for the ends. St. Josemaria constantly warned all of us about this danger. What is important is not to accumulate wealth or honor, but to be happy. For this reason, he always reminded us to conform our ordinary life, including economic activities, to the ideals of the Gospel. In Friends of God (17), we can read: “We have worked so hard, held responsible positions; you have won success in men’s eyes in such and such a job…But, in God’s presence, is there nothing you regret? Have you truly tried to serve God and your fellow men? Or have you pursued your own selfish plans, your personal glory, your own ambitions, seeking a purely earthly success that will dwindle pitifully into nothingness?” In the same book (34), we can read: “Allow me to insist…that everybody is a slave in some form or another. Some stoop before riches; others worship power; some, the relative tranquility of skepticism; and there are those who discover in sensuality their golden calf. The same happens in noble things. We put effort into a job or work, into an undertaking, large or small, into scientific, artistic, literary, or spiritual activities. Wherever there is commitment and real passion, the person involved lives enslaved, joyfully devoting himself to fulfilling his task.” The question is what should be the focus of a Christian, to which St. Josemaria responds in Furrow (302): “Your task as a Christian citizen is to help see Christ’s love and freedom preside over all aspects of modern life: culture and the economy, work, rest, family life and social relations.”
We cannot confuse our temporal projects with our ultimate ends. In Friends of God (208), we read: “If we transform our temporal projects into ends in themselves and blot out from our horizon our eternal dwelling place and the end for which we have been created, which is to love and praise the Lord and then to possess him forever in Heaven, then our most brilliant endeavors turn traitor, and can even become a means of degrading our fellow creatures.” Because this danger is especially acute among businessmen and top executives of large corporations, St. Josemaria makes special mention of the faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei who occupy high positions in business. In Conversations (52), we read: “Business executives who belong to Opus Dei seek to live the spirit of the Gospel in the exercise of their profession. This means, in the first place, that they have to be scrupulously just and honest. They endeavor to be honest in their business affairs, paying a just salary to their employees, respecting the rights of the shareholders or owners, fulfilling all the laws. They avoid any type of favoritism with respect to other persons, whether they belong to Opus Dei or not. I feel that favoritism would be contrary not only to the search for holiness, which is the reason for their belonging to Opus Dei, but to the most elementary morality.”
In his best-selling classic, The Way, St. Josemaria wrote (297): “All that worries you for the moment is only of passing importance. What is of absolute importance is that you be happy…that you be saved.” In that short admonition, he already foresaw a very important distinction that entire nations today are making between Gross National Product and Gross National Happiness. Economists are increasingly aware of the fact that, although human happiness does increase with an improvement of economic welfare from a state of dehumanizing poverty to a minimum of material comfort and decency, unlimited acquisitions of more and more material possessions do not necessarily lead to increases in human happiness. This is sadly revealed by the fact that some of the countries with the highest per capita incomes have also the highest rates of suicide. The spirituality of Opus Dei which St. Josemaria has contributed to the Church and the world strikes the best balance between being committed to building as perfect a human society as possible and the constant awareness that we are children of our Father God who has destined us for eternal happiness with Him in heaven. For comment, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.