Over the last few weeks, I have been looking at the life priorities that have helped me focused on living a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning. It can be easy to drift through life with no priority list. Or perhaps only have a list that is filled with everything we need to do, large and small. I have shared my three priorities in hopes of showing how simply we can alter our lives in a way that assimilates faith, family and work and puts us on the path to a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning.
- I will serve Christ and love Him with all my heart.
- My family is my primary vocation.
- My workplace is also my ministry.
I try every day to do the actions I have shared, and I assure you that I struggle like anyone else. The challenge is to practice them not as a bunch of new to-dos, but as part of a broader, unifying approach to a balanced and meaningful life that places Christ first in all areas of our lives.
So let’s “unpack” that last priority.
“My workplace is also my ministry”
Most of us spend the majority of our adult lives at work. The workplace today is a challenging environment to be open about our Christian beliefs. Political sensitivity and rigid company policies have led many of us to compartmentalize our faith in an unhealthy and unnatural way. I often hear people say “I just leave my faith at the door when I get to work.” But how can we possibly separate our spiritual selves from our physical beings? In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council weighed in with this valuable insight:
“One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives… The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation. Let Christians follow the example of Christ who worked as a craftsman; let them be proud of the opportunity to carry out their earthly activity in such a way as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God.”Gaudium et Spes, 43
Here are some ideas and thoughts on how to practically carry your faith with you to work:
- Be a Light for Christ. What does being a light for Christ mean? How can it be manifested in us? It rarely occurs to us to think about our own faith journey, the example we set for others, and the Christ inspired joy we radiate as the most effective ways to share our faith. Letting others see Jesus Christ in us is a powerful form of witness that will draw others to us who want what we have in their lives.
- Share our Joy. The first Christians had the good fortune to be the first to share the Good News. Imagine the joy they felt in sharing Christ’s message of love to everyone. They stood out as happy in a suffering world, just as Christians have an opportunity to do so today. Jesus promised them (and us) this joy at the Last Supper when he said, “So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22). Do we reflect joy at home, at work, with friends? We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ, His divine grace, our families and countless other wonderful things. But being joyful must lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our belief and love.
- Let Love Drive our Actions. Agape, the Greek word for selfless love, is the magic elixir that should drive our daily work activities. It is by acting in a selfless and charitable way towards others and putting their needs before our own that people will truly begin to see Jesus in us. It is so easy to focus on our own desires and needs, but take up the challenge to make today about serving others. Even the little acts of selfless kindness will have a dramatic impact on others. Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership, wrote: “Love enables any company to welcome every sort of talent, irrespective of religion, race, social position or credentials. Love is the joy of seeing team members succeed. Leaders motivated by love start from the premise that people will give their best when they work for those who provide genuine support and affection.”
- Practice Active Stewardship. Do you and your company give back to the community? 1 Peter 4:10 says: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” It is the right thing to do and is ultimately good for business to be viewed as someone who genuinely cares about the community. Get involved, make a difference and contribute; perhaps if we lead, our company will follow. Look for opportunities to reach out to the “Lazarus” in our lives today (from the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus may be a depressed or troubled co-worker, a client who is dealing with personal tragedy or the homeless and hungry outside the walls of your office building. Consider 1 John 3:17: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?”
- Show Humility. C.S. Lewis wrote that the greatest sin is pride and the virtue that opposes pride is humility. 1 Peter 5:5 says: “Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” Humility is a vitally important characteristic for Christians in the workplace. It is reflecting on our motivations for our actions and letting go of the outcome. This means we can enjoy the experience of life and not be obsessed with expectations others have of us or that we have of ourselves. Humility is trusting the work of the Holy Spirit. It is recognizing and being able to articulate our deepest desires for ourselves. When we are self aware, we can find ways for self-expression… and know when to alter our behavior and actions to be more appreciative of our friends and co-workers. Luke 14:1 says: “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
We are faced with a choice between a compartmentalized life or an integrated life where faith, family and work are unified and centered in Christ. We must change our hearts, let go of our attachments to material things, and place Him first in our lives. Do you know your moral non-negotiables? We must not cross ethical boundaries. How can we let others see Jesus within us and share our joy with others? Our humble and virtuous example to others throughout the day will positively influence their behavior and individual faith journeys. An active prayer life-one which turns our day into a conversation with God and firmly places His desires before our own, will open us up to receive boundless grace.
A Meaningful Life
My hope is for everyone to undergo a true “conversion of the soul” and lead an integrated, balanced and meaningful life. It isn’t easy, but worth the journey. I encourage you to begin tomorrow with a firm disposition to do good, practice virtue and emulate Christ. Constantly thank God and praise His name. Say a prayer to our Lord on the way to work or when you drop the kids off at school asking for guidance and grace throughout the day. Be kind to people you meet and offer assistance freely without an expectation of return. Pray for Christ to show you that the challenges which present themselves each day are opportunities to grow in holiness and virtue.
I would like to end with a quote from one of my favorite writers, Francis Fernandez and his wonderful series of books, In Conversation With God:
“We have to show everyone that Christ is still alive by living heroically the events of our daily lives. The apostolic vocation which we all received at Baptism means giving witness in word and deed to the life and teaching of Christ. People said of the early Christians, See how they love one another! The pagans were really edified by this behavior and those who conducted themselves in this way had favor with all the people, as the Acts of the Apostles tell us.
Normally Our Lord asks us to give a Christian witness through our ordinary lives, engaged in the same ways of earning a living, tackling the same concerns as other folk. We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: ‘This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is ready to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.’
We make our Lord known through the example of our life, looking for occasions to speak out, not missing a single opportunity. Our task consists to a large extent in making the way to Christ cheerful and attractive. If we behave like that, many will be encouraged to follow it and to bring the joy and peace of the Lord to other men and women.”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But, I sincerely hope that somewhere in the thoughts and ideas I have shared here, you will find comfort, encouragement and possibly the inspiration to make a new priority list and commit to a Christ-centered life filled with meaning.