While I was preparing this reflection, a long ago riddle came unbidden to mind. I verified it on the Internet .. my memory was correct but I had it in a decade too early. I was thinking it was from the 1950s … but jump forward a decade to the late 60s. There was a quite popular parable about a pig and a mother hen strolling through a town plaza where there was a billboard with a graphic of a platter of bacon and eggs advertising all-day breakfast at a local café. The mother hen turned to the pig and said, “Do you see, my Friend, the contribution we make to those human folks’ dining enjoyment?”
“Ah, but there’s a big difference,” said the pig, “Your contribution is just dedication. Mine is total commitment.” [Now, you may wonder how in the world this can be related to the Gospel … well, it’s all about commitment, isn’t it?
So, really, is the pig the one who is the committed one? For the pig to be a part of the bacon-and-egg breakfast, the pig has to be slaughtered. But does the pig buy into the adage that life is an “all or nothing” proposition?
No one asked the little pig if it would like to be slaughtered. The pig certainly doesn’t volunteer for to be slaughtered. Some might say that to be bacon was the pig’s destiny. I’ll bet the little pig would disagree. The problem with being slaughtered is that the pig can only be slaughtered once.
This is a bit like a potential member that may start out strong but quickly fizzles out and looks for another monastery unless, we make a concerted effort to insure her allegiance and loyalty. Without that sense of connection, it could be worse if she stays. But … is this real commitment? In a pig’s eye.
Now, I am not, nor have I ever been, a poultry farmer. But, it seems to me for the hen to be part of the bacon and egg breakfast, she only has to do what is in her very nature – what she grew up to do. The hen was born to lay eggs. The hen doesn’t know how not to lay eggs. You don’t even have to ask for the eggs, the hen just does it. The best part is that the hen will continue to lay eggs for as long as she is physically able.
This is like the member that gives you years of sustained superior service because she has found her passion and revels in doing it every day.
Is this real commitment? You can bet the farm on it.
So how do you find these committed, passionate members? Going through the same old motions and asking the same old interview questions like “What are your strengths? What is your greatest weakness? How could you contribute to our charism?” aren’t going to help us find the passionate Seekers for which we are looking. It may help us find good volunteers – valuable? Yes, most certainly. But it won’t ipso facto help us find great, committed and contributing members. This requires a live-in – a boot camp – experience. An extended time of rubbing shoulders in the trenches of everyday life. An experience of falling down and getting up with the support of mutual “long-timers” in the life. The only way to find this commitment is to provide an environment for their passion to shine and to discern with them if theirs is a Benedictine vocation.
Perhaps the more important question is: “Have YOU found your true passion? The thing that really gets you excited?” (Don’t get confused – being good at something is not the same thing as BEING passionate about it.) Jesus is the ideal coach to help you find your passion. He certainly had his: save the world! So associating with him, looking to his example, imitating his actions, his style of interactions, deep conversations with Him will help you not just “find” your passion. His goodness, his enthusiasm for life will rub off on you.
Calling the pig the committed one is unadulterated poppycock. [Yes, once the pig is slaughter, it is recycled to continue into another form providing sustenance for the consumer to do good in the world.] But let’s be real! The chicken is the truly committed and passionate one: day after day, year after year, doing what she knows God called her to, what she was made for, why she was created. … Oh, it takes the right nourishment and a conducive environment. “Free range” is for everyone. But, once you have found your passion, your calling, the thing you cannot NOT do. You cannot NOT be the person you were created to be. Passion drives you, informs you – peaks your thirst for a deeper relationship and prompts you to do your part to uphold your end of the covenant.
First Reading Wisdom 9:13-18b Second Reading Philemon 9-10, 12-17 Gospel Reading Luke 14:25-33
Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB