How do you want to live? I often think about the marvellous gift of life we each have – one life – and how often we take each day for granted. Sometimes tragedy or a brush with death jolts us into the reality of this gift and we focus on what truly matters, but we need not wait for a crisis to uncover this. Chris Lowney’s new book Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) asks this very question: What matters?
I used to work for a telephone concierge service and our mantra for customer experience was that same question, “What matters?” It called us to get to the real reason for each customer’s request. A man may have been asking us to send flowers to his wife, but what truly mattered to him was that his wife have an experience of feeling loved. A woman may have been asking us to make travel plans for her trip to Italy, but what was truly important for her was an experience of Italy’s food and history. Of course this digging for “what mattered” was a way to generate more work and thus more revenue, but I think Chris Lowney, himself a corporate business leader and former Jesuit, would appreciate applying the concept of what matters not to generating income, but to discovering meaning in our lives. His answer to this key question are some simple ideas from scripture: to care for the least of our sisters and brothers, to spread love, and to follow the golden rule.
The first habit in his book is to “Point Out the Way”. Lowney tells the story of one of his high school teachers, Father Duffy, whose love and care for his students was palpable. Through his lesson plans and notes and silly rhymes, he made learning Latin and theology easy for high school freshmen. Duffy once wrote, “I see myself radiating Christ to my students at all times…. I do this by my concern and love and respect for them…. I do it by being friendly in my dealings with them…” In other words, he knew that what mattered to his students was to model an authentic Christian life through friendliness and respect.
This resonated with me as I taught high school theology for two years and never did I want to be the kind of teacher who demeaned his students or came across as unloving. Like Father Duffy, I knew it was important to radiate the love of Christ, to model kindness, or to “point the way” as Lowney says. Good leaders point the way toward some goal and influence others to follow that way. In my current work as a pastoral associate at a Jesuit parish, I find countless opportunities to radiate Christ through welcome. How often do we find the Church and those in the Body of Christ appearing unwelcoming?
The Gift of Welcome
When a young Muslim student stopped by my church the other day because he was doing a project on Christianity for a world religions class I took the time to welcome him, show him the church, and answer his questions. When a young woman—who distanced herself from the Church after a negative and unwelcoming experience—visited my parish for an event I was sure to welcome her with a smile and invite her to consider this her home. All of us have opportunities to be a positive and welcoming face for the Church. When a homeless woman wanders into the church I don’t dismiss her, as some may, but treat her as a friend, not a nuisance. And while my high school students often felt like a nuisance (!), I did my best to point the way to a loving God by modelling that love myself.
I think as Christians we ought to ask the three-fold question: What matters to me? What matters to others? What matters to God?
These questions can help us uncover just how we can live meaningful and joyful Christian lives. If we discover and live the values and ideals that matter to ourselves (like the value of welcome), we’re likely going to radiate those values to others. And as Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” That is what matters to God.
The subtitle of Lowney’s book is “10 Habits for a Better Life (and World)”. Doing these small things, like radiating love and kindness to others, can slowly change the world. This is what being a part of the Christ Project is about.
You can purchase Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) from Loyola Press.
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