As a little boy I used to witness my mother’s ritual of boiling rice. She would place a cooking vessel on the stove with the required amount of water and rice and as she places the lid on the vessel she would make a sign of the cross on it. Once, when I asked her for the meaning of her gesture, she said the sign recalls to our mind the saving act of God and so with gratitude we direct all our acts to God. I also remember the Catholic nuns who would write JMJ (Jesus Mary and Joseph) on the board before the catechism classes began. The teachers in our parochial school would do the same. We were taught to begin our mails with the sign of the cross and JMJ or Ave Maria. I grew up in the midst of other religions where its’ adherents were taught to offer their acts first and foremost to God.
Now living in this hi-tech world I seem to have forgotten this simple but deeply spiritual practice that I grew up with; to direct all my acts for the glory of God. Every act of ours contains within it a proximate and an ultimate end. Consumption of food gives us energy which is the proximate end but the ultimate end of this act is (what we do with our energy) the glory of God. Thus, nursing a new born, caring for an elderly, journeying with the sick, preparing a meal for the family, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, watering the garden, tending to the care of a small pet, commuting to work, sitting on a board meeting, grappling with a most sophisticated technical problem, taking time to play with your child, taking a walk alone, being in a loving embrace, being on the street or in the church… wherever we are and whatever we do, our life and its’ acts, besides their proximate end, also have an ultimate (transcendent)
end which is the glory of God. The Psalmist sings, “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:5). We return God given glory and honor by directing every act of ours to God. Don’t we hear Jesus often saying before performing a miracle that the glory of God be revealed?
One way to do this is intentionally and consciously directing our acts to God. Before we carry out an act and as we move from one act to another we offer the act and its’ fruit for the glory of God. In doing this we don’t stop enjoying the proximate end of the act. We take it in. We enjoy and savor the joy that results from it but at the same time we remember that the very act contains within itself the ultimate/transcendental end: the glory of God.
When our acts are performed for the glory of God our little glorified self gives way to God and God becomes the center of our life and our acts. Isn’t this what is implied in ‘Karma Yoga” – one of the paths to holiness? First we consciously and intentionally direct our acts to God but with practice the heart takes over and it becomes a habit even if our conscious mind is preoccupied with the externals. As the practice of offering our works to God deepens, we eventually learn to offer the fruit of our works to God alone.
A long time ago when I was a student I heard the following story. Three construction workers were working at a construction site. A passerby asked them what they were doing. The first one said, “I am part of this construction team that is raising a building.” The second one said, “I am earning my daily bread and butter.” And the third one said, “I am part of this construction team that is building a church where people will gather to praise and worship God.” All three were right in their responses. But the third one summed up what we are trying to say: he was working, earning his daily bread and butter, and at the same time working to build a church – for the glory of God.
Off late in my life I have added the phrase, “For the good of humanity” along with “For the glory of God.” May others benefit from my acts, may the world become a better place because of my acts; however insignificant they are. In this way we put the interests of others before our own and this too will help to diminish the dominance of the ego within us.
May all that we do be for the glory of God and for the good of humanity!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!