The very title of this column may scare you off, but bear with me and you may find the topic less daunting than you fear.
God has brought us into this world to prepare us all for everlasting joy with him in Heaven. This eternity of bliss, however, is intended not just for you or me, but for as many as possible. So a large part of our mission here on earth is to share our faith with family, friends, and all those put in our path on the road to everlasting glory. And that includes those outside the home that we may spend much of our waking hours with, those in the workplace.
Work is a good in itself – and not simply (though importantly) a means of making money to support a family. St. John Paul II wrote in 1981: “Man was called to work even before original sin. Man is the image of God partly through the mandate received by the Creator to subdue. To dominate the earth. . .in other words man’s work is in some way a part in God’s creative power!”
We then are co-creators. This is both a privilege and a serious duty. The pope also discusses human work as a way of growing in holiness that prepares us for eternal happiness. After all, Our Lord constantly refers to workers in his preaching, and his greatest apostle was Paul, a tentmaker. You can be sure that St. Paul united his work with prayer so that it would not only contribute to earthly progress, but also extend the Kingdom of God.
This brings us to the second part of God’s plan for work that was highlighted by St. John Paul II in his encyclical on work, Laborem Exercens: that work becomes a place and means of sharing one’s faith not only by example, but also by words based on developing friendship in the context of the workplace.
Now our current pope (and Time magazine Man of the Year) Pope Francis has stressed from the opening days of his pontificate the importance of personal one-to-one, no-holds-barred, 24/7 evangelization, modeling in his own interactions with others how we as Christians should always be ready, as our first pope St. Peter put it, “to give an account of the hope that is in you.”
Pope St. John Paul II and Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis): co-workers for Christ
In his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes:
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they are our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching that takes place in the middle of a conversation, something like what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others and this can happen unexpectedly anyplace: on the street in a city, or during work or in a city square or on a journey.
In this preaching, which is always gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes, and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp.
So what can you do in your work to bring others to the Lord and his Church? Well, virtually all of you work if you are under 65 or so. You may work at home, from home, or at the office; you may be outside, in a government building, or in one of thousands of other settings. In any case, almost everyone comes in contact with people, whether few or many. Each has an immortal soul, and each one is either in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin, ready for an eternity in heaven or hell.
What are you going to do with them as you encounter them throughout the day?
Here are some ideas of how to be a bearer of Christ to them:
- Be an example of a hard worker;
- Over time and in a natural way, become their friend, let them know they can rely on you always, and reciprocate by confiding in them when you have troubles (as we all do);
- Be joyful and fun to be with;
- Talk to them about your family;
- Talk to them about your faith;
- Ask them about theirs;
- Pray for them;
- Visit them when they are ill or down, when they’ve lost a job or a loved one;
- Ask them if they have ever thought of being Catholic. Would they like to know more?
- Invite them to noon or Sunday Mass;
- Tell them about the love of Mary our mother.
And in addition, pray for and imitate our pope, cultivate crazy love for the Lord as he does, share that love with your fellow workers, and God will reap a harvest of souls through you.