BE AN APOSTLE IN THE MARKET PLACE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Eph 4:1-7, 11-13; Ps 19:2-5; Matt 9:9-13 ]
“I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.” All of us are called to a particular vocation in life. Vocation is a call from God to serve Him and His people. St Paul speaks of the different vocations in the Church. “Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers.” This list is of course not exhaustive.
What is important however, is to remember that every vocation is important to the Church and is a unique call from the Lord. Regardless of what we are called to do, every vocation is for the service of the Church. Whether we are a homemaker, professional, ordinary worker, helper or even sick at home or in hospital, our vocation is essential in the building of the Church. He does not simply call us without equipping us. That is why when we are chosen for a vocation, the Lord will qualify us and give us the necessary graces to carry out our vocation in fidelity, devotion and with fortitude. St Paul says, we are given a special charism “so that the saints together make a unit in the work of service, building up the body of Christ.” In truth therefore, every vocation is a gift from the Lord to His Church, for the building of the People of God and for the growth of each individual.
This means we can be sanctified by our vocation. It would be wrong to think that only those who are called to priestly and religious life are sanctified in their vocation. Indeed, what sanctifies us is not what we do but the intention behind what we do and how we carry out the role that the Lord has entrusted to us. Even when we are sick or elderly and unable to work, we can be of service to the Church when we offer our pains, sacrifices and inconveniences for the work of mission and the conversion of sinners by carrying our sufferings patiently and cheerfully. In this way, we inspire and give hope to our care givers and draw out their goodness and generosity to serve the poor and the sick even more. This is what St Paul wrote, “In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.” We must use our vocation to sanctify others and in the process we sanctify ourselves so that all become more like Christ in love and service.
Such was the intention of our Lord in calling Matthew to be His apostle. Matthew was a tax collector, born in Capernaum. Tax collectors were the most hated people in the kingdom because they were perceived as traitors, since they worked for the Romans. Furthermore, many of them were dishonest and profited from the taxes they collected. They were seen as unscrupulous and greedy people. As such, they were the outcasts of society. We can imagine how Matthew and his fellow tax-collectors must have felt as they were ostracized by their own people. They had no friends. Sure, they had plenty of money but their lives were lonely and they lived a life without dignity and respect.
It was within this context that Jesus came into the life of St Matthew and commanded him to “Follow me.” And we read that without delay, he got up and followed him, leaving behind everything. Jesus showed Matthew that life is more than just making and hoarding money. Life is about love, relationships, giving, forgiving and healing. He called Matthew to have a relationship with Him. This was concretely expressed by Jesus going to Matthew’s house to have meal with him. Indeed, the Lord comes to stay with those of us who open the door and welcome Him. (cf Rev 3:23) This is the purpose of life.
But there is also another reason why St Matthew was chosen. The Lord wanted him to be an apostle to his own kind. He was called to be an apostle in the market place. Indeed, in choosing Matthew, Jesus did not choose him only for himself but for others. So we read that when other tax collectors heard of it, they too came to dine with Jesus. “While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.” St Matthew became an apostle to his fellow tax-collectors and sinners. Indeed, no one can reach out to another person better other than one of their own. This means that our vocation is to reach out to those who share in our profession, besides serving the larger community. This is what it means to be an apostle in the market place. All of us, irrespective of our vocation in life, must make Christ present in whatever we do, so that we can witness Christ to our fellow colleagues, business partners, confreres, clients and whoever we are serving.
But to be an apostle in the market place means to help our fellow workers to be rightly motivated in what they do. In the gospel, Jesus made it clear that “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.” The Lord took the occasion to instruct the other tax collectors that their profession need not be one of disdain if they were honest in their work and not involved in cheating or overcharging. Regardless what our vocation is in life, we can sanctify our work and give glory to God. All we need to do is to live a virtuous life. So we need not be ashamed of what we do, and what profession we are in, so long as we live an honest life and for the good and service of humanity.
As an apostle in the market place, our task is to help others to discover the true meaning of their vocation in life. Our vocation is more than making a living, or worse, making money and living a life of selfish pleasure. Rather, our vocation is to help others to discover the joy of loving and giving. We want to teach others that all vocations can sanctify us and the world. We want to help everyone to live the fullness of life in Christ, by sharing in His life because He is the True Man, as St Paul tells us. We are called to reveal to them their ultimate vocation, which is to share in the life of God and be united in Christ. This is what St Paul wrote, “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”
Hence, if we want others to be inspired by our vocation, St Paul urges us, “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.” We must be honest in our vocation and work hard to earn the respect of others. But we must do our work in such a way that is guided by charity “in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.” Let us use the charism and resources that the Lord has blessed us with to bless others. Only through such a life, can others be inspired by us and will want to sanctify their lives by living out their vocation too. Truly, the psalmist invites us to live our lives in such a way that glorifies God, just like the whole of creation. “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth the work of this hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. No speech, no word, no voice is heard yet their span extends through all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the world.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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