There is an old Latin adage: modus operandi, meaning “method of operation.” While today it has many applications (criminal investigations being one of them), one of its initial applications had a rich spiritual context. It was a phrase often employed to challenge Christians in how they were living out their baptismal vocation to love God and neighbor. In the spirit of this challenge, you might hear from the pulpit something like: what makes you tick? Why do you do what you do? Or possibly, what motivates you to get up in the morning? In other words, what is your modus operandi?
How do we go from a phrase meaning “a method of operation” to one of the great challenges in the early Church? The answer is found in the word method. The English word method comes from the Latin word methodus, meaning “a way of traveling or going.” The first Christians were called “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22). “The Way” quickly emerged as code for being a follower of “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6)—Jesus Christ. Modus operandi emerged as a battle cry for the first Christians as it would often lead to an examination of conscience. To respond to one of the aforementioned questions (what makes you tick? Etc...), is to honestly reflect into what motivates you to do what you do. Essentially, the challenging question, however it is phrased, ought to bring out the best version of who God is calling you to be.
In light of the questions that encircle modus operandi, we are encouraged to ask new questions, such as: do I get up in the morning for strictly selfish gain ignoring selfless acts? Do I seek places of honor and prestige neglecting the simple folks I meet in everyday life? These questions (and many others) are necessary to the extent they encourage us to act against our selfish motivations.
So where do we start in overcoming our self-centered ways? It starts with that one thing. As I often like to point out, there is typically one thing we are too attached to. If you are having problems figuring out what that one thing is, it is probably the first thing you go to in the morning or the last thing you spend time with before you go to bed. Whether it be a game you are playing, a team you are rooting for, or a sitcom you are watching, whatever that one thing is, uproot it from your heart and plant something new and beautiful in place of it.
Pray for the grace of God that your new modus operandi, what gets you up in the morning, brings glory to God!