28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
October 9, 2011
I write at a time when the whole world, so used to Apple products, (including me), is mourning the loss of more than just an icon of leadership, management, and technological wizardry and artistry all rolled into one. Steve Jobs has died, after leaving an irreplaceable legacy and impact to hundreds of millions of people all over the world … for generations to come!
It has been said that Steve Jobs knew what people needed before they even wanted it. He had a keen eye for human nature, capable as he was to strike a marriage between humanity and technology, coming out with products that both pleased the gizmo addicted postmodern world, and the same world hungry and bereft of a technology with a soul!
Hopeless technologically-challenged baby boomers like me (Jobs was exactly my age!), who were not quite at home with the digital 1’s and 0’s of “threatening” machines churned out by IBM and their contemporaries, suddenly regained their digital self-esteem, sort of, and came out just as confident as their more tech-savvy counterparts of the Microsoft kind.
I write, as much to pay tribute to an admirable man, my contemporary, and my fellow sojourner in this pilgrimage called life, as to give fitting worship and honor to God who is the author of everything that is good.
I would like to see a parallelism between him and St. Paul, who, today, writes a very passionate letter, filled, as much with hope, as with resignation and acceptance of reality. Steve Jobs started out life as a reject, given up for adoption by his biological parents. He was rejected even by the company he co-founded – the very same company he saved later, and catapulted, to the dizzying heights it now occupies in the business world. St. Paul, too, knew what it meant to be in want. “I know how to live in humble circumstances. I know also how to live with abundance.” When Jobs took the helm once more of the company that booted him out years earlier, he entitled himself to a salary of only one dollar a year! He made more than enough money for himself and his family, but he definitely did not want to make of his company a piggy bank of sorts like most CEOs all over the world do (including military top brass and politicians in the Philippines!).
Today’s readings are a reality check for all of us. In the famous speech he delivered at Stanford in 2005, he acknowledged the utterly human reality of death and said, “no one of us wants to die.” But the acceptance of that fact is what propelled him to a great work, and by that he meant, loving what one does, whatever it is.
We all have desires and dreams. We all could legitimately enjoy “rich food and choice wines,” as Isaiah writes. We all long for ultimate happiness and fulfillment. In moral theological parlance, we speak of our innate human desire for the “fullness of human flourishing.” And by this, we speak about the whole gamut of human endeavor that makes us ultimately more human, more akin to what God the creator has dreamed for us. And this includes, but is not limited to, even legitimate earthly and material joys, that Isaiah’s rich symbolism stands for.
But there is more! And this is where the good news of the Lord kicks in!
This is the closest that Steve Jobs has gotten to as far as the Christian good news is concerned – the sense of detachment, the sense of resignation and acceptance of the unacceptable, though, inevitable. This is the same message of Christian hope and Christian resignation that St. Paul embodies in his letter – the faith in a God who “will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
This basic stuff of humanity that has to do with a deep longing, an ardent desire, not just for more, but the for the MORE, is what we all need to reflect on today, with a little help from icons and models like Jobs, like St. Paul, like the saints in roster of the Church.
Don’t get me wrong … I am not canonizing Steve Jobs. But having said this, I also am not just about ready to jettison him out of my personal list of models to emulate. God speaks through time and history, events and people, both past and present. He still speaks to me personally now. And like Oliver Plunkett wrote many centuries ago, “I see His blood upon the rose, and in the stars the glory of His eyes!” Everything, everyone, every reality and every event can speak volumes about the God, who is behind my every longing, my every desire, my every little or big dream, even my want and need for the next big Apple product!
This is what Ronald Rolheiser calls the “holy longing.”
Yes… like Jobs, I don’t like to die. No one likes to die, at least, not so soon. Yes … like he knew, all of us want more, if not the ultimate MORE! But my Christian faith and hope now tell me, and of this, I am morally certain … “I shall live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life!”
This is the MORE whereof I speak … whereof the whole of Scripture and Tradition speak! This is the MORE for which one who believes in and belongs to Christ’s fold, more than he believes in and belongs to Apple or Microsoft, ultimately wants.
But what one wants and desires, one has to pay for. Apple products don’t come cheap. But the ultimate product that Christ the Lord is pushing doesn’t come cheap. We have to pay the pearl of great price. We have to be worthy of it. We cannot want our cake and eat it, too. We need to shape up for it, and work for it, and deserve it. As great and noble our desire and holy longing is, so is the effort and the commitment that we ought to put into acquiring it. We are all invited to the wedding feast, but we cannot go there while killing the messenger sent to us.
Let St. Paul show us the way, if you are tired of me talking about Jobs. He was an educated man, a Roman citizen, somebody who could eke out his own living and live relatively comfortably for his stature. As valid and legitimate as his dreams were, they were no match for the big dream that he eventually spent all his life force for – the surpassing greatness of Him who enabled him to do all the things he did.
I am still afraid to die. I am still afraid to grow old and useless and eventually set aside. I know that younger generations are poised now to take over. I still dream about legitimate good stuff the world offers that can be put to good use in my evangelization work. I definitely would want to always have a reliable computer to help me with all this.
But I have been there, done that. I have been in want and I have seen plenty. I know this life is not what I have been created for, but life with God forever in the next. But behind all my earthly dreams is that HOLY LONGING. And I can only do that, achieve that, and claim it eventually, and “do all things in Him who strengthens me.”
Thank you and good-bye Steve Jobs! Praise God for St. Paul and a whole multitude of saints to remind us of what we all ultimately long for: “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life!”