WE need to be concerned about this matter. If we really want to be truly human and Christian, we need to develop a passion for excellence in everything that we do or get involved in.
It, of course, should not be motivated by pride or vanity, greed, envy and things like them. Rather, it is to give glory to God, to effectively contribute to the common good, and to make full use of the many blessings God has given us and thus attain the perfection meant for us.
In the gospel, there are many references about this need. Christ himself leads the way by showing us how excellent all his deeds were in spite of being hidden. At one point, the people could not help but say that “he has done all things well.” (Mk 7,37) And when he preached, the people were very amazed “because he taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1,22)
We can presume that everything Christ did was done with a passion for excellence. This can only mean that he worked first of all to obey the will of the Father, and he did all with whatever technical perfection can be achieved given a particular circumstance. He knew how to make do with whatever was available at a given moment. Of course, being God and not to show off, he performed miracles.
St. Paul also made some exhortation about this passion for excellence. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?” he asked. “Run in such a way as to take the prize.” (1 Cor 9,24)
This passion of excellence would also include the urge to finish what was started, that is, to persevere in doing good till the end regardless of all the difficulties encountered along the way. It involves putting the last stone, the last finishing touch in any endeavor.
Thus, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we are told to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (12,1)
We have to develop the proper attitude and skills to have this passion for excellence. Everyday, let us motivate ourselves to be zealous in everything that we do. We have to be driven, hot, enthusiastic, not complacent and lukewarm. We have to set clear goals, norms and standards to somehow measure our performance, deadlines to meet. We have to have some game plan and clear idea of the means we have to use.
This passion for excellence will surely include a spirit of initiative, creativity and inventiveness. It should know how to handle setbacks, failures and disappointments that can come occasionally. It should know how to be flexible and adaptable without losing the focus. It should know how to recover from tiredness and exhaustion.
To sustain this passion for excellence, we need to continually purify our intentions, availing of all the spiritual and supernatural means to do so. Let’s remember that in all times we have to contend with powerful enemies—our own wounded selves, the many allurements of the world, and the devil himself who will do everything to bring us down.
This passion for excellence, if grounded and oriented properly, will always be marked by joy and peace in spite of the tension that it entails. It does not fall into what is called as bitter zeal where the details of charity and prudence would be left behind.
It does not eat up our human warmth. It is very much compatible with showing affection, and with ‘wasting’ time with friends. It does not count costs and it enables us to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God and to everyone else.
A person with passion for excellence is aware that he freely received much from God. He will also give himself freely to God and to others.