It is the question all Christians must ask themselves daily: How do I fit the practise of my faith into the demands of everyday life?
Some have responded to this challenge by answering the call to give their lives totally in service to God. They are the nuns, priests, deacons and others whose whole lives are wrapped up in service to the gospel. We should never forget to show them gratitude for the work they do on behalf of the Church and the world.
However, most of us are called to live our faith out in the midst of the world. We are pulled between making time for prayer and good works on the one hand, and raising a family and holding down a job on the other. It is difficult to pray the rosary or study the Bible when supper needs to be prepared , the kids need a ride to soccer practise or when we have to work overtime to complete a project. It is difficult to keep our minds focused on the kingdom of God when so many other demands are made on our time and energy.
Nonetheless, Jesus calls us to love and serve him no matter what our station in life may be. We are to give our lives totally in his service whether we are a priest or parking lot attendant , nun or nurse.
What are the secrets to balancing the practise of our faith with the demands of life in the twenty-first century? Today's readings give us some important clues.
In the second reading from the letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul reminds us to "serve one another through love." Love is the calling of everyone who wishes to follow Christ. It is love which makes everything we do pleasing to God. Therefore, by adding a little love, I can take whatever it is I am doing during the day whether it be washing dishes or printing reports and make it an opportunity to serve Jesus. When I offer all my thoughts, words and actions up to God in love, then the demands of my job and family no longer get in the way of my life of faith, but actually help me to grow closer to God and others. They also become opportunities for prayer because I am continually reminding myself that everything I do, I do for Christ. And I am drawing on the power of his Spirit so that I am capable of loving as he does.
Therefore, the first "secret" to living our faith even with a hectic schedule is to dedicate everything we do to God in love.
Jesus' words in the gospel give us a clue to the second "secret". When a man runs up to him promising to follow him wherever he goes, Jesus tells him: "The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." Jesus was homeless. As he traveled through the countryside, he either spent the night with those who opened their homes to him or he slept on the street. He had no permanent place in this world. His home was in heaven at the right hand of the Father. It is a reminder to us that we have no permanent home here either. Our final destination is heaven. The goods we accumulate through our labor will not last. We are not meant to get too comfortable here on earth. Whether we have been blessed with abundance or are struggling to get by, our homes and material possessions are not ours to keep. Remembering this helps keep our work in perspective. We are called to something greater than the status and prestige that many promises.
And so, the second "secret" is to keep in mind that everything we have earned is merely on loan to us as we make our journey to our heavenly homeland.
Finally, we need to be always ready to answer the call to serve the needy around us. In today's gospel, two of the people who approach Jesus have excuses for not following him. But Jesus did not have time to wait around for them. It was "now or never". How many times have we used the demands of family life or of our job as an excuse not to practise charity? How often have we overlooked the needs of others because we were so focused on getting our chores done? Jesus tells us very plainly the when we fail to feed the hungry or give drink to the thirsty, it is really him whom we are ignoring. Are our heads buried so deeply in the details of our everyday lives that we miss Jesus when he passes by? We can never miss the opportunity to give food to a beggar, to give an encouraging word to a friend, or to witness to our faith to those who are in doubt because we are too busy. We stop being human when we are unable to sympathize with and help others.
The third "secret", then to becoming holy in the twenty-first century is to stop letting our busy schedules be an excuse for not doing good.
We do not have to join a religious order to live a life pleasing to God. Neither do we have to give up on the hope of becoming saints because we have jobs and families. By offering our work up to God in love, by not valuing the accumulation of wealth too highly and by not allowing our busy lives to be an excuse to overlook the needs of others, we can discover a sure path to holiness in our everyday lives. Furthermore, our good works will start to transform our families, our places of work and our society. We need only call upon the Spirit of God every morning, and he will guide us through all the way to our heavenly homeland.