St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, had a message for his followers that is worth recalling in a time that often worships instant gratification and self-indulgence.
He reassured his followers that when they took time to study and grow, they were still serving their neighbor because they were increasing their capacity to serve their neighbor. Some service simply cannot be provided without a certain level of expertise. So if people don't set aside time to develop that expertise, they will never be able to serve in the way God otherwise equipped them to serve.
He also taught that preparing oneself for service took time — and that time was, in fact, well spent and could be largely selflessness if it was devoted to growth for the sake of service. He recommended that a person "should each day offer himself to God for his neighbor," because regular prayer helps keep us on track.
While a commitment to continued learning is essential, he did not think that learning alone would enable one to reach his or her optimum service potential. Ultimately, to treat one's neighbor as oneself — something Jesus said was critically important — a person had to actively strive to live a virtuous life.
"You are preparing an instrument that is not less, but better fitted to confer grace by leading a virtuous life than by leading a learned one, although both learning and virtue are required if the instrument is to be perfect," he wrote.
Whether or not we ever even remotely achieve perfection, it is astonishing to think that our highest role in life is to confer God's grace on others."
Adapted and used with permission from Take Five: On-the-Job Meditations with St. Ignatius by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris D. Stubna, Copyright © by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
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