April 24, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Responding to God’s gifts helps us live holy lives

Next week, we commemorate St. Joseph the Worker.

With Mary, Joseph was privileged to parent Jesus through the early stages of his life.

He is a patron for ordinary people trying to become holy in the workaday world.

With St. Joseph as our patron, I offer four simple considerations about how you can live your call to holiness and place your trust in God in your work at home and elsewhere.

First, make the connection between your work during the week and Sunday. Diligence in work is good stewardship. Ethical practice is good stewardship of work. Work is a way of responding to God’s gifts with your God-given talents. If you are disabled by sickness, see that as a work of holiness. An intentional awareness of the stewardship of work is a major way in which you can become holy.

Bring your week’s work and the fruits of your work as a spiritual offering to the Lord at Sunday Mass. The connection with Sunday Eucharist integrates your Christian stewardship of time, talent and treasure to the offering of the Eucharist.

Work is a stewardship offering at Mass on Sunday. What you put in the Sunday offertory collection is an external sharing of the fruit of your daily stewardship of work. The work week and Sunday are connected.

Secondly, try to seek a right balance of “family love” and “family wealth.” Your work or profession is, of course, a significant way in which you exercise your responsibility to provide for your family; or if you are single, it is a way to exercise your responsibility for the welfare of the local community of extended family and friends.

In the pressure of being productive workers, it is difficult to find the right balance. In the world of business, competition in a free market is an ever-present pressure. I encourage spouses to pray for the discernment to make good decisions about how much time should be given to work in order to provide for family, and how much time and energy needs to be spent with family.

Somehow the priority of family love over family wealth needs to be lived in a practical way. It’s not easy in the climate of secular cultural values that press for material wealth.

Thirdly, try to practice presence of God in your workaday life. A saint of our times, St. Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer, was a great proponent of the holiness of lay people. He emphasized the notion of what he called “practice of the presence of God.”

By this practice, he meant to make you aware of God’s presence in your daily work whether at home or away. Believe and be aware that God is with you through the day.

We do that by an occasional short mental prayer such as “Lord, help me”; “Lord thank you for your help through a tough stretch or the tedium of housework” or “Holy Spirit, guide me in this next meeting or interview or sale.”

Keep in mind that you received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation. When you pass a Catholic Church acknowledge the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle; some people make a sign of the cross as they pass by.

Daytime practice of the presence of God will be even more meaningful if we begin with a morning offering, a short prayer of placing the day in God’s hands. It is fruitful to spend a few minutes at bedtime reflecting back on God’s blessings through the day—and also consider whether we acted as if God doesn’t exist.

When all is said and done, there is no greater resource for God’s gift in our lives than the Eucharist on Sunday, or better yet, attending Mass during the week as well. If you want a few minutes of refuge and rest, stop for a visit to a nearby parish church or adoration chapel.

Fourthly, try not to overlook the needy around you. The point Jesus made in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man was not that it is wrong to have wealth. He taught that it is not right to ignore the needs of people around us: material needs, spiritual needs and moral needs, perhaps in your own home.

The sad thing about the rich man in the parable was the fact that he even knew who Lazarus was, not only that he was in dire straights. But he completely ignored him.

Every one of us has a responsibility in charity to our neighbor. Our responsibility is measured by the blessings that are ours.

These are simple thoughts about the connection of our Christian stewardship at work, at home and in Church.

Christian spirituality doesn’t need to be complicated, but it needs to be intentional. †

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