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Doing Godís Work
By Singapore Pastoral Institute and
Catholic Social & Community Council
(Sunday, 17 August 2008)
We often hear of people saying that they have no time to "serve the church". Indeed, some of us find our time stretched between many things---family commitments, job responsibilities, school work and perhaps even ill health. We think "serving the church" or "doing God's work" is only for those who are retired or single and have a lot of time on their hands.
When we think in this way, what is our notion of "doing God's work"? Perhaps we are thinking that it means spending time at our parish or in a particular ministry. We think of "doing God's work" as something we need to set aside extra time for, away from all the other parts of our lives---our family, our workplace, our leisure time, etc.
This can't be further from the truth!
The work which God gives us to do is to transform the world according to God's reign of love and help bring about communion within the human family and with God. This work is to be done right where we are: as a mother, a son, a salesperson, a customer, a software engineer, a neighbor and in all our other roles. God's work is something we do 24-hours a day!
There's a role for everyone in building God's Kingdom, even those that society mistakenly regards as "unproductive" and do not have much to contribute, such as elderly persons, those who are sick and even little children. In Christifideles laici, Pope John Paul II highlights the unique role that these people have.
Children teach us how to have total trust in God and rely on God's power, rather than our own abilities. In living each day of their own lives in innocence and grace, a wealth of spiritual enrichment is generated and touches the entire Church. This is particularly true of the many suffering children around the world. Pope John Paul II reminds us to be grateful to children for this very valuable contribution.
Young people are important evangelizers and agents for renewal in Church and society because youth is a time of discovery and growth; a time of openness to God and seeking of fellowship. Young people tend to be more sensitive to issues of justice, peace and solidarity. They are a source of richness and youthfulness in the Church.
Elderly persons are teachers of the lessons of life and bearers of tradition in Church and society. Elderly persons are at a time of their lives when they can better evaluate the past, live more deeply the Paschal Mystery, be an example for others and discover new applications of their Christian mission.
The Sick and Suffering
Even those who are sick have a mission to do. They are called to unite their suffering to Christ's Passion and receive as well as transmit to others the joy and renewal of the risen Christ. In this way, the sick and suffering become a powerful force for the sanctification of the Church.
In addition to these groups of people, Pope John Paul II also affirms the important role that women play. Women need to be included in consultations and processes of decision-making in the life of the Church. In the midst of a world ridden by many problems, a woman's special role in marriage and motherhood, her sensitivity towards the human person and her concern for the wellbeing of all are urgently needed today.
Mission of God
When talking about doing God's work, many people think that "serving God better" means to become a priest or join a religious order. In actual fact, the Church regards all states of life, whether lay, religious or priesthood---as equally important in the mission of God. They complement one another because each has a unique function.
Within the lay vocation, there are also many ways of serving. Each person's way is unique and depends on his or her circumstances, responsibilities, talents and interests. For someone who is a parent, serving God means being a loving, patient and diligent parent. For someone who runs a business, serving God means being an honest, prudent and creative business person that looks out for opportunities to uplift the disadvantaged. As you can see, doing God's work is not about doing more "Christian stuff', but doing the stuff that we are already doing in a more Christian way!
The task for each of us then is to discern how God is calling us to build God's Kingdom through our lives. This discernment does not happen overnight. Our calling unfolds itself as we take time to listen to God in prayer, reflecting on the history of our own lives, being aware of our gifts and circumstances and receiving the help of spiritual guides.
Making it Happen
Take time out to reflect on your own vocation. What do you think is your specific mission? Consider your state of life, your age, health, talents, current responsibilities and the circumstances around you.
We Need to Keep Learning
In order to be more effective in our Christian vocation, we need to be well-informed in our spiritual life, in the teachings of the church and particularly in Catholic social teachings. SPI offers a variety of courses throughout the year on Scripture, prayer and various aspects of the faith, including the Church's social teachings. Find out about these courses and sign up for them at the SPI website at http://www.catholicspi.org. You can also find resources on Catholic social teachings at CSCC's website at
A More Christian Way
What does it mean to do things in a more Christian way? The Church highlights the following social principles that we need to apply in our family, work, community and society.
1. Principle of the Dignity of the Human Person
Every human person is made in the image of God and has infinite dignity. All of society must be directed towards the well-being of the human person.
2. Principle of Association
Human persons are meant to be in community and have a right to freely associate with one another to achieve the common good.
3. Principle of Subsidiarity
No higher-level body should take over what a lower-level body can do for itself, so that people can develop and flourish.
4. Principle of Participation
All human persons have a right and duty to take action in what determines their well-being and future.
5. Principle of the Common Good
We must seek the good of the broader community that is, each person, every person and the whole person---and not just our own interests.
6. Principle of the Universal Destination of Goods
God intended for all the world's resources to be enjoyed by everyone, and not just a few people. We should have a preferential option for the poor and see to it that the most vulnerable have what they need.
7. Principle of Solidarity
Every human person is deeply connected to every other person. We are called to stand together as one human family.
8. Principle of the Dignity of Human Work
The human person's intrinsic dignity means that human work is holy as well. Moreover, everyone should have working conditions worthy of the children of God.
9. Principle of the Dignity of Creation
Creation is holy because this is the place where we relate to God. We are the earth's stewards, helping to bring the world towards salvation.
10. Principle of the Promotion of Peace
We have a duty to seek true and lasting peace, which implies right relationships all round with God, self, others and all creation.
Doing God's work is not about doing more "Christian stuff', but doing the stuff that we are already doing in a more Christian way!
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