Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Nativity of Jesus as a Model for Public Service

By Master of Vyšší Brod, Mistr Vyšebrodský -
 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=155396
There are three persons who have been sources of inspiration for my more than two decades of service in the public sector. A special moment in the lives of these role models is actually what we are celebrating at this time of the year. I’m referring to the nativity or birth of Jesus as told in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The three persons for this reflection are Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Jesus, of course, is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity of the Catholic faith. He eventually decided to take on the challenge of saving humanity by dying on the cross, resurrecting on the third day, and then ascending to heaven. We can say that Jesus gave an infinite sacrifice. Dying like a mortal is a supreme act of an infinite being.

In a way, working in government is like a supreme act of human sacrifice. Given the low pay, especially in the past, very few good and competent people are lured to work in government. Given the amount of effort and investment one needs to spend to complete an education, it is but rational to look for a job that would enable one to recover the expenses. Thus, public service is a vocation. It is a calling or a choice that flows from a unique way of understanding the concepts of debit and credit.

The mission of Jesus would not have been possible without the willingness of Mary to participate in the divine unfolding. Mary’s obedience is a good model for government employees. For me it means saying yes when given additional assignments or concurrent designations. Mary’s obedience is also manifested in one’s willingness to work beyond office hours to complete assigned tasks although, unlike in the private sector, there’s no overtime pay. Obedience is also an important step towards volunteerism and doing self-guided learning. But that’s another story.

Joseph is perhaps the supporting actor to Mary, who is the supporting actress to Jesus. This man invested so much of his reputation just to be the husband to a virgin, and a father to a son begotten by someone else. But Joseph believed in the divine narrative, even though it is mostly communicated to him in a dream. He took care of his family and kept them away from harm.

In a way, the narrative of public service is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic. Translating the ideals of the constitution, however, is not an easy task. Sometimes there are competing claims by political personalities and public officials on what is just and what is right. But like Joseph, we know that somewhere in time, someone would take the cudgel of leadership to bring this nation to a righteous path. When that time comes, this person would need the help of able bodied Josephs in the bureaucracy, people who will readily do what is right at all times.

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