What it means to love, to achieve, and to serve


AD maiorem Dei gloriam, the Latin motto of the Jesuits which means “For the greater Glory of God,” is a phrase that we often use to express our motive when we serve other people. It’s a phrase that some celebrities even use to convey their gratitude to God for their achievements. It’s a saying that helps us become grounded on the fundamental reason for any humanitarian or charitable acts that we perform.

But are we genuinely expressing these words? Are we truly doing any works of mercy for the greater glory of God?

Saying these words might be like saying the mundane greeting and response, “Good Morning! How are you?” I’m good, and you?” They sound well, but they may not necessarily show true feelings.

We encounter this expression in today’s Gospel on the story of the Raising of Lazarus. When Martha and Mary sent a word to Jesus that his friend, Lazarus, was ill, Jesus’ response was, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God.” And when he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus asked Martha, “Did I tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

Indeed, whatever miracle that Jesus did, it was all for the glory of his Father. In the end, even his death was all for God’s glory.

We might want to convey this pure intention again in any responsibility, job, or volunteer work we fulfill. Even the responsibility of taking care of our children—sending them to school or accompanying them to sports, dances, field trips, and other extra-curricular activities—must be done with this motive of doing everything for God’s glory.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam is rooted in profound gratitude to our Creator whose providence, mercy, and love exceed any human understanding. And so, anything that we try to do must flow out of our reciprocity to God’s mysterious love for us. Yes, we must center all motives and activities on God, and we must exercise any plan or realize any vision for His glory.

It’s what St. Paul means in Romans 8:8-11:  “But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you…If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” In other words, all our actions come from the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us; any egotistical forces are not from the Spirit of Christ.

As we conclude the Lenten season, let’s reflect and review our motives for doing services to others. Are they born out of our genuine love for God and the fulfillment of His will? Are we doing them in the Spirit of Christ that dwells in us? Are our minds and hearts filled with gratitude to God, allowing us to give ourselves freely generously to others?

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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