Eulogy Virtues

Gospel Reflection for 11th Sunday of the Year June 16th

In the course of our lives we all meet individuals who radiate an inner light. They make you feel respected and valued, they listen with concern and compassion, and they genuinely care for others and the good of all. Their laugh is musical and their manner infused with gratitude.

Journalist David Brooks writes that he has been blessed to meet and know such people in his life. But, he confesses, “It occurs to me that [while] I’ve achieved a decent level of career success . . . I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, that depth of character.”

Brooks has found that there are “two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral – whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

“We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

“But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys . . . ”

Good people, Brooks writes, “are made, not born – that the people I admired achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.”

The Gospel images of the persevering farmer and the tiny mustard seed challenge us to create our own “moral bucket list”: to move beyond our own shortcomings and doubts in order to live the “eulogy” virtues of humility, selflessness, love and compassion; to radiate the “inner light” of God’s grace to others in our mustard seed-size acts of generosity and understanding. Christ calls us to embrace the faith of the Gospel farmer and the hope of the mustard seed: to be willing to plant whatever “seeds” of Gospel hope and compassion that we possess, wherever and whenever we can, in the certain knowledge that it will, in some way, result in a harvest of God’s life and love.

By such faith, may we possess the grace and wisdom of those in our lives who are a blessing to us, and so become a blessing to others.