“…a good, honorable, and righteous man…” Matt. 1:19
Being ethical, doing good works, acting with justice and charity, spreading kindness all sound wonderful, but when it comes to the daily grind of life, at work or at home, they can seem insurmountable tasks. It’s easy to do all these things in a vacuum, but not so easy in real life.
In The Good Shepherd, which has nothing to do with the parable in the gospel of John, is a story of fictional CIA agent Edward Wilson (played by Matt Damon), who truly tries to do good works in a political culture that seemed anything but good.
In this film, we see that this desire to do good works is not always met with reward; but no matter the odds or difficulties, he continues to do them. He does what was honorable and right (i.e. marrying a woman whom he does not love because a son needs to have a father; i.e. turning his favorite poetry professor over to the authorities because he might be a Nazi supporter), even though he is never thanked or embraced for doing it.
In a way, Edward reminds me of good St. Joseph, the unappreciated earthly father of Jesus, who did what was honorable and right (cf. Matt. 1:9) despite his poverty, his social status, or even being an outcast for raising a child out of wedlock. Even today, all the good that St. Joseph did is all but forgotten.
In a way, this fictional CIA agent lives a thankless life as well. Like St. Joseph, Edward is a father-figure (a “shepherd,” as the title suggests), who constantly looks out for the people of the United States and, in a special way, for his own family. Many of his colleagues are unethical, corrupt, and violent people, but he never seems to cave into that reality. And just like St. Joseph, he holds himself to a higher standard but he also never seems to get his due. No one sings Edward’s praises. No one sang St. Joseph’s either.
Many of us feel like Edward and St. Joseph: unappreciated for doing the right thing. Some of us work in jobs like Edward, where everyone and everything around us seems to be corrupt or unethical; we are tempted to give in, just to get ahead or just to get noticed.
In The Good Shepherd, Edward never gave into that temptation fully, and we are called by Christ to stay on that same path. In a way, we might read into the eighth beatitude of Jesus a new meaning: “Blessed are you when they ignore you, overlook you, and pass over you because you are a good, righteous, and honorable person, for you will be first in the kingdom of heaven.” (based on Matt. 5:10).
So if you read this and say, “hey, that’s me… unappreciated but honorable all the while,” then know that God is watching you, smiling at you, and waiting with baited breath to give you your just reward in the kingdom of heaven. Know also that the person writing this blog, in a spiritual way, knows that you do that and thanks you for it.
It’s thankless, yes, but this is the making of real sainthood, and you’re already on that path.