The challenge of sanctifying our skills

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT series of “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites,” (cfr. Mt 23,13-22) that Christ heaped on some of the leading Jews remind us of the sad and common phenomenon nowadays where we can be doing some good and yet miss the real and ultimate good meant for us.

And precisely because of that miss, those involved cannot help but get involved in some forms of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. As Christ observed, the many religious practices that those involved did, since they are not properly motivated and oriented to their ultimate goal, simply became a ground for some spiritual and moral irregularities.

The proper priorities were not observed. Things were done more for show than for anything else. Inconsistencies marked the relation between words and deeds, intention and action.

This phenomenon continues to take place today, especially in the area of imparting skills to young people. While we cannot deny the importance of teaching skills to the youth for the immediate and practical reasons of providing them a source of income and a chance to develop their talents, we should never forget that these skills should first of all be understood as the means, occasion and reason to bring them to God, to make them saints as we are meant to be.

There is still that deep bias of separating our ordinary work and circumstances in life from the ultimate purpose of our life which is our own sanctification. The idea of sanctifying our work and skills to sanctify ourselves and pursue the ultimate purpose of life is still foreign to most people despite the many centuries of Christianity all over the world.

To many, our work and skills should just be ruled by temporal and technical laws. Many of us don’t see the intimate relation that these dimensions of our life have with respect to the ultimate purpose of our life here on earth.

Thus, we would not know how to sanctify our work and skills, which is actually just a matter of doing them mainly for the glory of God out of love for him and for everybody else. If we would just be aware of the purpose of our work and skills, then we would always be motivated to do them well, with as much technical perfection as we can give them, and always offering them not only for themselves, but mainly for God and for others.

Our work and skills would then be an expression of love, and of our pursuit to become more and more like God as we are meant to be, since we have been created in his image and likeness.

Our work and skills are not just for practical purposes, and much less just for us to get rich and well-placed in our society, or to be powerful here on earth. We need to realize deeply that our work and skills are actually an intimate, personal participation of the continuing work of God which is his abiding providence over all his creation.

As image and likeness of God, we live and do everything, including our work, with God always. Even without realizing it, the objective truth is that our life, and everything in it, is always a life with God.

Our work therefore is not just ours. It just does not correspond to some purely natural and human needs. It is by definition a work with God. We need to be most aware of this truth, so we can also consciously and freely work in sync as much as possible with God’s will and ways, as is proper to us as God’s image and likeness.