Saint Josemaria Escriba had a radical idea. He would form an order not of priests or religious women but of lay people dedicated to living out their faith in the world. Rather than serve the Church directly as catechists or administrators, they would live their faith out in their workplace. By witnessing to Christ in their schools, offices and factories, they would bring the light of the gospel out from the four walls of their churches into the wider world to touch people who otherwise would never go to Mass or have contact with a priest or religious. And so, he formed a group called Opus Dei, Latin for “work of God”, to form lay people in their faith so that they could go out and bring the teaching of Christ into the world.
When the Scriptures talk about God’s call, it is usually to individuals who are chosen for a great task whether it be to serve the people as a prophet as Amos was in today’s first reading or to follow Jesus as the disciples in the gospel.did This calling required that they leave their jobs. The prophet Amos had to leave his work as a shepherd and dresser of sycamores in Judah to speak God’s word at Bethel. The apostles left their jobs as fishermen to follow Jesus. The same is true today. Many are still called to serve God in a radical way by leaving their jobs to serve as priests and religious. However, most of us are called to witness to Jesus at our places of work or in our schools. We are still called to follow Him, but to do it where we are, to bring Him to places where He would otherwise not be talked about and to people who otherwise would not be exposed to Christian love.
That means that it is not only the religious women and men, the priest or the deacons who have the responsibility of spreading the gospel. Through baptism, each one of us is responsible for bringing Christ to the world. Through confirmation, we are given the Holy Spirit who gifts us with courage to speak the truth, perseverance to remain faithful when we are tempted and love to see Christ in all people. God is calling us to bring His Kingdom into the lives of the people around us who might never otherwise hear the good news of His love.
It does not mean jumping up on our desks and preaching a fire and brimstone sermon. It does not mean interrupting a staff meeting to share a passage from the Bible. Rather it means living out the faith sometimes in quiet ways by not participating in gossip, always telling the truth and taking notice of those in our workplaces who have difficulty making friends or who may be struggling with their jobs. Other times it will mean standing up for those who are picked on, clarifying the Church’s teaching when someone misrepresents it or defending the faith in a gentle way when someone is ridiculing it. Living in such a way will not only make our offices, schools and factories more peaceful places but it will open hearts to the love of God manifest in Jesus and at work in a powerful way through the Catholic Church.
How can we begin to be a better witness to Jesus at our work? It all starts with prayer. We should all begin our work day by offering our efforts up to God. If we are facing a particularly challenging day, we can offer up that suffering in union with Jesus on the cross. In this way, we acknowledge that God is with us even in our work. Then we must pray for the grace to remain faithful to Him throughout the day. We should ask for whatever we need to meet the challenges of the day whether it be for patience to deal with an irritable co-worker or wisdom to answer the questions someone may have about our faith. We can be sure that God will answer those humble prayers and empower us to bring His light with us wherever we go.
When we live the gospel message, we also have to be prepared for rejection. Some people are so angry at the Church or so caught up in the pleasures of the world that they do not want to hear the good news or be associated with people of faith. They may try to insult us or take every opportunity to offend us. Jesus has some advice for us. He told His disciples that when they encounter such people they are to just shake the dust off their sandals. In other words, we should not take this rejection personally. They are not rejecting us but Jesus, so we should let it roll off us. And it could be that by our patience and prayers, they may one day open their hearts to the love of God.
In the past, the gospel message was spread by those who left their families, jobs and even their homeland to witness to Jesus. Now that the good news has been spread throughout the world, as a Church we must undertake a new missionary effort - not to foreign lands or to foreign people but to the many lost sheep we meet everyday in our schools, workplaces and families. In today’s world it is up to each of us no matter what we do to live the good news in such a way that it opens minds up to God and heals angry and bitter hearts. We can do that with confidence, for as Saint Josemaria Escriba teaches us, it is a work of God. He will accomplish it through us in mostly hidden ways if we offer ourselves humbly and confidently to Him.