By Milwida M. Guevara
I was up to my neck with work last week developing instructional materials for the reading camp of Valenzuela City. I felt literally burned out. After I sent the materials to the Mayor, I told myself “Boy, do they owe me plenty!” This feeling was reinforced by the Mayor who said, “We owe you plenty.”
It was with this feeling of entitlement that I attended the triduum at the Ateneo Professional Schools. Fr. Gascon who was the Recollection Master retold the story of the washing of the apostles’ feet by Jesus. He gave us some moments to reflect on our answer to the question “Whose feet did you wash today?” I felt a tinge of guilt that I was not doing enough for the poor. And for the little that I have done, I considered that I was doing them a favor. Unconsciously, I was expecting to be affirmed and rewarded. With such an attitude, I have remained self-centered and proud, and, was trapped in self-entitlement.
The Mass in the afternoon was celebrated by Fr. Tony Moreno, Provincial of the Society of Jesus, who talked about humility, selflessness and emptying of oneself. When he asked “Are we proud to be humble?” I recalled my predisposition to tell stories about the good work that I do. Perhaps, it was an unconscious attempt to establish moral ascendancy. I realized that I still have a long way to go before I can do good without self-gratification and expecting something in return.
Fortunately, the Easter Vigil presided by Fr. Ben Nebres, former President of the Ateneo was about forgiveness and mercy. He invited us to imagine how the apostles must have felt with their lack of courage and abandonment of Jesus. And yet, they were forgiven by the Lord. I felt renewed with the promise that we are all given opportunities to become better than we were yesterday. We can overcome natural tendencies to place ourselves above all others and to do things for recognition. Instead, we should feel fulfilled and happy because we have made others happier. Selflessness means being kinder, becoming more patient, more forgiving and helping others without expecting anything in return.
Many of us took the Easter break as an opportunity to get away from our work. It may have given us the time to pause and reflect. John Dewey highlights the importance of reflection. He says that “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on those experiences.”
Withdrawing from our normal routines gives us some quiet time to examine what motivates us in our work, what we did well and what we can do differently. It is only when we listen to our hearts that we can find out what we have become and how we can do better.
I end with the image of Fr. Moreno who knelt down to wash and kiss the feet of the “disciples for the day.” Some were security guards, some were cleaners, and some were women. I hope that I can be worthy of washing somebody else feet at the end of each day without expecting a thank you or drumbeating the good that I have done.