Bernardo M. Villegas
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Message to Millennials and Centennials (Part 5)

 Philippine society should rejoice that many of those in their twenties and early thirties went out of their way during the election period to work for the common good.  They saw in VP Leni Robredo a symbol of good governance, integrity, truthfulness and real concern for the marginalized.  Whatever the personal weaknesses and limitations of those who succeeded in getting elected on May 9, 2022, they should consider ways of harnessing this idealistic and highly motivated young people as a positive force to really establish a social or juridical order that enables every single person in the country to attain his or her fullest integral human development, with special emphasis on the marginalized. Working for the common good (which is not the greatest good for the greatest number) is the only way the call for unity will be meaningful especially for the young.

The young should be reminded, however, that working for the common good starts with their doing the work they do in their respective occupations or professions with the highest perfection possible.  Mediocrity or sloppiness in one’s daily work is incompatible with wanting to work for the common good. Even if the political leadership leaves a lot to be desired in the coming six years, much can still be done by the young generation to establish a just and peaceful society by being competent and caring in their respective day to day jobs, whether manual or intellectual.

Here, I want to remind the millennials and centennials what St. John Paul II wrote in Laborem Exercens about the value of human work done with the right intention: “As the Second Vatican Council says, ‘throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort.  To believers, this point is settled:  considered in itself, such human activity accords with God’s will.  For man, created to God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness; a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who has to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all.  Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth.’ 

“The word of God’s revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, man in a sense, continues that activity, and perfects it as he advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation…A person is more precious for what he is than for what he has.  Similarly, all that people do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane ordering of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances.  For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about.”

Much before the Second Vatican Council and the papacy of St.John Paul II, St. Josemaria Escriva, the Founder of Opus Dei and whom St.John Paul II called the “Saint of Ordinary Life”,  already preached tirelessly about the earthly and spiritual value of human work, whatever it is.  Here let me quote from “Novena for Work to St.Josemaria Escriva” some relevant passages from his abundant writings:

1.     It is no good offering to God something that is less perfect than our poor human limitations permit.  The work that we offer must be without blemish and it must be done as carefully as possible, even in its smallest details, for God will not accept shoddy workmanship.  ‘Thou shalt not offer anything faulty.’  Holy Scripture admonishes us (Lev. 22:20), ‘because it would not be worthy of him.’  For that reason, the work of each one of us, the activities that take up our time and energy, must be an offering worthy of our Creator.  It must be operatio Dei, a work that is done for God:  in short, a task that is complete and faultless.

2.     By doing your daily work well and responsibly, not only will you be supporting yourselves financially, but you will be contributing directly to the development of society.  You will be relieving the burdens of others and supporting local and international welfare projects for less privileged individuals and countries.

3.     When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for Christ’s sake, so tactfully and so naturally that no one—not even he—will realize that you are doing more than what in justice you ought.  This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God.

4.     Professional work is also an apostolate, an opportunity to give ourselves to others, to reveal Christ to them and lead them to God the Father. 

5.     Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are.  There you have your daily encounter with Christ.  It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.

Political activism is desirable, especially among the young members of society. Apathy or  lack of interest in the improvement of the political order, in clean government, justice and peace works against the progress of any society.  Let the words of the two modern saints above, however, remind the young that even more important than political action in attaining a just and progressive society is the individual example that each one of us gives to others in living all the human and supernatural virtues we can acquire through both our human efforts and the grace of God, especially in our place of work.  We may or may not see a significant improvement of good governance in the next six years.  That is why we should continue to be vigilant and use all lawful means of preventing corruption and cronyism.  Migrating to another country will not help things improve.  At the same time, we should closely cooperate with the honest and competent government officials at all levels, especially with those who will be appointed to the Cabinet, to attain a more equitable distribution of income and wealth in a growing economy, each one in his place of work and chosen occupation or profession.

I would like to see the day when Filipinos will be praised all over the world not only for their soft skills, their ability to maintain smooth interpersonal relations with one another, their constant smiles and pleasing demeanor but also for their work habits, their discipline, their attention to details, their magnificent obsession with a job well done.  It does not please me to hear outsiders heaping praises on us for our friendliness and pleasant personality but have to look elsewhere, such as to the South Koreans, the Taiwanese or the Singaporeans for models of hard work, productivity, orderliness and attention to details.  Through the efforts of the young generation today, we should strive to be the Germans or the Swiss of the Orient as regards discipline and excellence in our daily work in the coming years.  We should prove to the world, as some of our Overseas Filipino Workers have already done, that we can be highly efficient workers with whom it is pleasant to work.  This may seem to be an impossible task. We are fortunate,  however, that to our individual human efforts we can add the superabundant help that we can get from God as a result of our Christian faith.   To be continued.