April 24, 2005
I know a number of people who would say that today’s gospel is their favorite passage of scripture. It is indeed an attractive image of Jesus as way to heaven, of Jesus going ahead of us to prepare a place for us in his father’s house. It is comforting to know that our belief in Jesus, as the way the truth and the life, is our means to eternal life. But if you listen to the gospel carefully, it is clear that it asks more of us than simply believing in Jesus. Jesus asks us not simply to believe in His name but to do His works. He says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.” So belief is not sufficient in itself, it must be accompanied by the works that Christ calls us to do.
Now this is not to say that the works that we do in any way earn heaven or our relationship with God. Such gifts are always God’s grace. But since such gifts have been given to us, it is imperative for us to live in such a way that our work shows God’s love for us and our commitment to God. Believing is essential, but we must also work in such a way that we manifest God’s goodness.
A retired priest after a life long of ministry died and went to heaven. About the same time a man who had worked his whole life as a taxi cab driver died. The two of them arrived at the heavenly gates at the same time. St. Peter addressed the priest first, “Welcome father” he said, “we’re glad to have you here.” Then he gave the priest a clean white cotton gown and a wooded halo, and said, “Father you’ll be living in a little cottage over by the train tracks. It’s a bit noisy but it’s clean. You’ll like it.” The priest was somewhat discouraged about his accommodations in heaven so he decided to wait to see what the taxi driver would receive. St. Peter turned to the taxi driver with open arms, “Welcome we’ve been waiting for you. We are delighted that you are here at last.” Then he gave the taxi driver a silken white gown and a halo of solid gold. “We are putting you in one of our best properties—a thirty-room mansion on a 15 acre lot of prime heavenly real estate.” The taxi driver was delighted and went off to his heavenly abode. The priest decided to question St. Peter. He said “St. Peter, is there some mistake? Should I not receive a mansion too. I went to church every day, and I preached the word of God week in and week out.” St. Peter replied, “Sorry father, your place in heaven is gauged by the results of your work. When you preached, people slept. But when he drove, everyone prayed!”
The place to produce results is where we live and work. If our faith does not make some impact on the ordinary things we do day in and day out it is doubtful whether that faith is real. This is certainly the testimony of the scriptures. The great figures of the scriptures often encounter God in the midst of their work. Moses was a shepherd, and while tending the sheep he encountered God in the burning bush. When Jesus was born, the shepherds received the message of the angel while they were tending their sheep. The first apostles were fishermen and at their jobs when Christ came to call them. Matthew had a government job and met Christ while he was collecting taxes. Martha and Mary came to know and love Christ while worked in their home.
We should expect to encounter God in the midst of our work, and we should work in such a way that it is obvious to others that we are followers of Christ. After all, if we appear the same as everyone else in our day to day activities, if our faith does not some how set us apart, it is questionable how real our faith is. So wherever we work, whether it is in an office, whether our work now is going to school, whether our work is caring for a home or driving a truck or working on an assembly line or in a bank, whatever job we have, we need to work in such a way that it manifests that we are followers of Jesus.
Let me give you three qualities that I think can help us do this: integrity, compassion and witness.
Those that follow Christ work with integrity. They do not cheat on their algebra test or on their homework. They do not bend the rules of the office to their own advantage. They do not put others down to make themselves look good or to prime themselves for a promotion. People know that their word can be trusted, that they will make decisions based on the common good rather than their selfish ambition. Those who follow Christ work with integrity.
Those who follow Christ also work with compassion. They are aware of the people around them, whether the people in their home or the people on their job. They are willing to take time to listen to a child or to a spouse after a difficult day. They pick up clues from their co-workers of some problem or stress and let them know they are available for support. Those who follow Christ work with compassion.
Those who follow Christ are also willing to give witness to their faith. They are willing to let others know that they are Catholic, that they believe in Christ. This does not mean that they try to push their faith on other people. It definitely means that their faith is not something that they are trying to hide. They are willing to find ways to let others know that they believe in God and that they value that belief. This can be done in simple ways such as using God language. When talking to a co-worker and describing some good thing that happened in life, those who follow Christ are willing to name event as a “blessing from God.” They are willing to tell co-workers who are going through a difficult time that they will say a prayer for them. By acting in this way they witness that they are believers and testify that Christ makes a difference in their lives.
Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Our believing in him leads us to eternal joy. But faith is not sufficient in itself. It must be lived out in a way that it reflects God’s love in our lives. Those who are willing to live their lives with integrity, with compassion, and a willingness to witness identify themselves as true followers of Jesus. What will you do this week to make it clear to others that you are a believer? What will you do this week so that others might see God’s love in the work that you do?