Christ Inspired, Secular Challenged

Do you find it challenging to live a balanced Christian life that unites faith, family and work?  Does your Christ-inspired faith sometimes get deflated throughout the course of everyday life?  Many of us feel overwhelmed by the obstacles we face from an increasingly agnostic media, religious-indifferent work environments, and declining family-focused values. This constant battle has worn us down to the point that we adopt distinctively different personalities for church, home and work-it is spiritually and emotionally toxic. Consequently, is it time to “upgrade” to a life where our values are aligned with our obligations?

James L. Nolan, author of Doing the Right Thing at Work, said in a recent talk to St. Peter Chanel parish: “We are in the middle of a profound sea change affecting all aspects of life: social, cultural, economic, and political.  Changes are being played out all over the world.  Prompted by the alienation and uncertainty of our age, people—now more than ever—want to find a reliable moral compass.  They want to integrate their whole selves; integrate who they are with what they do.  Some are coming to recognize a deep-seated drive within each one of us to use our talents, intelligence and imagination for the greater good.”

I think many of us want to engage in conversation that brings about change, but don’t know where to begin.  Displaying courage in the face of society’s obstacles is difficult, but perhaps we should focus our attention on manifesting small acts of bravery that are meaningful.  I don’t believe that Christ expects us to win the war by ourselves, but I do believe he expects us to be good soldiers.

Our Lord says in the Book of Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” -Matthew 5:13-14 and 16.  Letting your light shine before others is about testimony.  It is about setting a good example.  It is about standing up for what is right and wearing your values on your sleeve.  It is about the sincere public embrace of Christ.

Humbly, I propose these simple steps in Faith, Family and Work that we can follow in our daily lives to be lights for Christ, take a firm stand, and ultimately to lead a more fully-integrated life.  I hope these suggestions will bring some comfort and encouragement.

Our faith is sometimes relegated only to Sunday mornings. We put on our “church” clothes, load up the minivan and think about where we’re going to eat afterward. But faith can easily be incorporated into our everyday lives with a few simple pauses and acknowledgements of Christ. Here are a few that I am working on:

Show humility and put Christ’s will before your own
• Glorify Christ and give him thanks for every grace and blessing.  Put Him first in your thoughts and prayers and His will is more likely to be revealed.  “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” -Matthew 23:11-12

Be not ashamed of the name of Christ

• Say Merry Christmas, not Seasons Greetings!  Send Christmas cards, not Holiday cards.  Say a blessing over your meals … in public.  Christ died on the cross for us; can we not stand up for him in public?
Pray every day

• Spend quiet time in prayer with the Lord to thank him and ask for his blessing and guidance.   Humbly thanking God and praying for guidance, wisdom and help is critical to our spiritual well-being.  Make time every day to read scripture and other books to more fully experience the lessons God has for us.

Selflessly invest in others
• Invest in others without an expectation of return. Make your actions serve the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ and you will inspire others by your example.  Add this simple phrase to your conversations—“How can I help you?”

Be a good steward … in your church
• Do we give Christ and the church our time, talent and treasure?  Is our charitable giving more than a mere tax break?  Consider Christ’s observation of the Woman and the Two Coins in Mark, “He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” -Mark 12:41-44.  We have opportunities and an obligation to give back to our community, get involved in church ministries and support those less fortunate than us. We just need to decide then act.

Remember Christ is our Teacher and Friend
• Christ is guide, teacher and friend on our faith journey. Joe Difato writes in his article, Reading the Signs of The Times: “The good news is that God doesn’t expect us to do this all on our own. On the contrary, he is committed to teaching us and encouraging us along the way. This is, in fact, why he sent the Holy Spirit-the Third Person of the Trinity-to live in our hearts. It is the Spirit’s job to open our hearts and our minds so that we can understand everything that Jesus taught (John 14:26).

Time on earth with our families is precious, and we will be remembered and judged by how fully we lived that time.  Balancing faith and family means living in the moment, avoiding distractions from work, and appreciating the memories we make in the time God gives us with our loved ones. Following are some ideas to consider:

Spend time with your family, not money
• Our children look to us for love, guidance and boundaries.  Today’s “surrogate parents”—television, computers, video games are teaching them that materialism is a god worth following. It is our responsibility to show them otherwise. Lisa Hendley writes in a Catholic Exchange article titled, Spend Time With your Family, Not Money: “It’s not wrong for us to want to give our children the world. What is wrong is for us to forget that we are supposed to be the “grown ups” in the equation — the ones who teach our kids that living within our means and not being overly reliant upon debt makes sense financially, emotionally and spiritually. So next time you are struggling with balancing the family budget, remember these words of wisdom—spend time with your family, not money!”

Set a good faith example for your children

• If you want to know what kind of Christians your children will be, look in the mirror. They look to Mom and Dad and mimic our example.  If you pray, they will pray.  If you are joyful about attending church, they will be excited as well.  Discuss scripture and bible stories. Point out appropriate heroes for them among the figures of the bible or saints who have lived exemplary lives.
The family that prays together stays together

• Like many of you, this is a challenge my family is facing.  We pray before meal time and bed time with our children and I hope the meaning of what we are doing will eventually sink in. But raising children is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep at it. You will reach them.

We are here to help our family get to heaven
• As parents, we have no greater responsibility than to help get our families to heaven.  It is our mission, our vocation.  As part of leading a balanced life, we should always consider how to bring our children closer to Christ.  Simply attending church is not enough as writer George Barna (author of Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions) said in this Catholic Exchange interview: “… the importance of families realizing that they are called to be the primary spiritual developers of their children. It is not a church’s job to develop a family’s children’s spiritually. The church is there to support the family, not to replace the family.”

Everything is so closely tied to political correctness these days that company executives are running scared. It’s simply the landscape of today’s corporate environment. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express, and more importantly celebrate, our love of Christ in the workplace by being moral, ethical, and generally good people. Here are some thoughts that are certainly appropriate for a professional setting:

Wear your values on your sleeve

• Do people know what you stand for?  What you believe in?  Write down your values and keep them with you.  In our ambiguous world it may seem difficult to take a stand for what you believe, but your values should be your center that guides your actions and decisions.
Be a good steward … at your company

• As a complement to stewardship of faith, be a good steward of your company time, talent and treasure.  Do you and your company give back to the community?  It is the right thing to do and is ultimately good for business.  Get involved, make a difference and contribute; perhaps if you lead, your company will follow.
Set a good example for your co-workers

• Be honorable, ethical and moral in business.  Standing strong behind your beliefs in the workplace will earn you respect among colleagues and create opportunities for deeper dialogue about faith.

Make your role about serving others
• The idea of servant-leadership is not new.  Serving your clients, serving your peers, serving your community … is in essence serving Christ. Pope John Paul II said, “The purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but it is found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs and who form a particular group at the service of the whole society.”

See your work as a vocation
• Michael Naughton writes in his article, A Labor Day Reflection: Three Views on Work: “A vocation enables work to become more satisfying but understood not solely from the perspective of the self or even from the community, but informed by God’s grace. Work as a vocation transforms the worker and the object the worker produces by God’s grace. A vocation integrates the divine into the activity of work.”

Do the Right Thing

It seems so basic, yet it is surprisingly challenging.  Look at Enron, WorldCom and other countless examples of poor ethical and moral behavior in companies.  Jim Nolan, author of Doing The Right Thing at Work, has outlined a five step program to guide us in the pursuit of ethics and virtue in the workplace: 1) Self awareness, 2) Expanding our horizons to include concern for all in God’s creation, 3) Engagement in our work and in our world, 4) Community and 5) Prayer.

My intent in sharing these ideas is to show how simply you can alter your life in a way that assimilates faith, family and work.  I try every day to follow these steps, and 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 balance and integration.

My personal story is that I converted to the Catholic Church in 2006 after 23 years in a state of “spiritual wilderness.” I was a strict separatist: my work and personal life never connected.  When I embraced Catholicism, it opened my eyes to the reality that God comes first, and my will must be subordinate to His will.  I experienced a conversion not only in my new faith and devotion to Jesus Christ, but in my world view.  I began to see for the first time the vital necessity of integrating all three areas of my life.

My hope is for everyone to undergo a true “conversion of the soul” and lead an integrated, balanced 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. Thank God and praise His name.  Say a prayer to our Lord on your way to work 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 Jesus to show you that the challenges that present themselves each day are opportunities to grow in holiness and virtue.

In Phillipians 4:8 we read, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Put Christ first, and the rest will follow.

Finally, I would like to share this appropriate quote from Albert Einstein: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” I pray that we all can become better Lights for Christ.  Thank you and God Bless you.