The sanctification of my daily life, including my work
We were made for union with God. Therein lies our happiness. This truth is the true foundation of our life. The Christian is called to an intimate friendship with Christ. From this basic principle must flow everything else in life. I have not called you servants, but friends, our Lord said. And, you have not chosen me, I have chosen you. So the vocation of the Christian is to be the constant companion of Jesus, living with Jesus in a loving friendship.
We remember how right at the start of our Lord’s public ministry, two of John’s disciples, with John’s encouragement, followed our Lord. Our Lord stopped, turned to them and asked, what do you want? They said to him, Lord where are you staying? Come and see, our Lord replied. They went with him and stayed with him that day. That marked the beginning of their companionship with him. Their companionship and friendship with Jesus was the foundation and the first principle of everything in their life. Our Lord chose those same two to be among his twelve apostles, called apostles because they were to be his companions and to be sent out on his work as his envoys.
As we follow Jesus today and each day, let us imagine our Lord turning to us and asking, what do you want? And we answer, Lord where are you staying, so that we can be with you? So then, where is Jesus, awaiting our company? Of course, he is most especially and primarily in the Holy Eucharist, in the Sacraments, and in the life and ministry of the Church. The Eucharist is the summit and source of the whole of our Christian life. His greatest presence is at Mass. He is present in his word where he comes to speak to us. He is present in our hearts when we turn to him in prayer, as we should every day.
There is the danger, however, of thinking that our Lord is virtually only where we find him in formal and explicit prayer and when we approach him in the Sacraments and to hear his word. But our Lord is present awaiting us wherever the will of God directs us to be and wherever he wants us to act. Our Lord said, who is my mother and my sister and my brother? Anyone who does the will of my heavenly Father is my mother and my sister and my brother. So if we want to be with our Lord and united to him in love, we must engage in doing his will. He awaits us there, where he wants us to be and to act. And we must not forget that his will for us is that we do the work he has given us in life, the work of fulfilling our daily responsibilities. He is there close to us when we are working hard at fulfilling thoroughly those ordinary, hidden responsibilities out of love for him.
That is why our work in life, provided it is the work that he wants us to do and not just a work we have chosen in place of our true responsibilities, is a most important means of sanctification. In and by means of our God-given work we live in a true partnership with Jesus. When the work is hard and unrewarding, bringing little recognition and perhaps even being looked down upon, then we are in companionship with our Lord in carrying the cross, the cross that is inherent in our work. This is why our daily work can be most sanctifying provided we do it as well as we can as an offering to Jesus, remembering the constant presence of Jesus there in our work. The danger is that we might think that it is only in moments of formal prayer or in other directly spiritual exercises - which are indeed so very important - that we are close to Christ. And we can then think that our work and the other activities that are part and parcel of our calling in life are so many steps removed from our Lord, some distance from him and that take us away from him. We can think that the only way to resume contact with him is to leave our work and return to formal prayer. Of course, it is indeed necessary to have regular and formal times for prayer, but our work does not in itself take us from Christ. In our work we ought very often be raising our hearts briefly to God in order to remember his presence there with us. Remembering his presence, we continue doing our work for him.
Of course, formal prayer and explicit times of prayer each day apart from our work are absolutely indispensable if we are to grow in union with our Lord. But granted this, and with this schedule of prayer and other formal spiritual exercises firmly in place in our life, provided we retain our sense of the presence of God our work will become something holy and a true means of growing in union with him. A life full of intense and effective work can be a most sanctified and sanctifying life, if we do it for Jesus who is present there in the work of our daily duties and responsibilities. Indeed he is more present there than if we were to neglect our God-given work and spend undue time in formal prayer. If we find ourselves to be reluctant about work, or very reluctant at the thought of suffering that has come or is coming to us, just remember that Christ is there awaiting us in our work and in our suffering. The more intense the work done for him, the more intense will be his sanctifying presence. The greater the suffering when united to him, the greater his sanctifying presence in the midst of it. We embrace the work in order to embrace Christ who expresses his will in the duties of our work. We embrace the suffering in order to unite ourselves more with Christ who awaits us in our suffering and who unites himself in a special way with the one who suffers.
Therefore the sanctification of our daily work in life must be part and parcel of our plan of spiritual living. I would urge you to consider having some plan of life that will order your life towards the attainment of sanctity. Spiritual reading every day. Upon rising, a Morning Offering and a little time in the presence of our Lord, perhaps with the help of a Gospel passage. The Rosary every day, the Angelus. Make Mass the centre of the week, and perhaps of the day. Regular Confession. Spiritual direction perhaps in confession. Then sanctify your work. Start again, and work well. If we neglect the sanctification of our work in life, a great chunk of our life will remain separated from God. Whereas every aspect of our lives must be lived in union with God and made a means of union with God and the doing of good.
What is the key to making all this work well in a spiritual sense? Two things are necessary. Firstly, we must be always beginning again, beginning again and again with repentance in earnest. Secondly we must resolve to do everything really well. Our spiritual exercises of every day ought be done really well for God, and our work (in the home, in the workplace, in the parish community, or wherever) ought be done well for God. Now I begin! I have the present with me, the past is gone. I can use the present to begin again. I have been given the gift of freedom to make that choice to begin again. So I will. And then having begun again, I shall do things well. I shall draw up a plan of life to attain holiness, and then I shall keep to it really well. I shall try to do everything, my prayer, my spiritual reading, my rosary, my Angelus, my participation in Mass, my regular Confessions, my daily work and other duties I have in life, really well. All of this I shall integrate into a unified life serving God for love of him. I shall try to make everything I do worthy of being offered to God, something holy. Thus I shall be made holy, and through these persevering efforts of mine, others will be made holy.
So now I begin!