Author: Bryan H.
Is there any surrender greater than the surrender of Christ on the cross? The eternal entity through whom all that has been created came to be, stepped into that same creation and became bound by mortality and time. The limitless became just as limited, in many ways, as you and I are. This Incarnation is a profound mystery that we celebrate most directly during Christmas, but it is a mystery that we re-experience any time that we speak of Christ – Son of Mary and Son of God. And as quickly as we move from winter to spring, which in February may not seem rapid at all, Easter is upon us.
I’ve been asked to reflect on the relationship of work, occupation, to Easter. This can take any number of directions of course, but I have chosen the central role and power of surrender in any walk of life. We may most immediately think of the monastic life when we think of complete surrender to God, but surrender is no less important, and no less possible in the “active life.” I often say that the distinction between sacred and secular realms is a human construction. If all that has come to be was created by and is sustained by God, then there is not any aspect of our lives where God is not present. “I will be with you always” does not just refer to Sunday or morning reflection time. It means 24 / 365 / lifetime.
So what is “surrender” at work, and why would one even try? Work is about struggle and adversity and getting noticed and achieving and promotion, right? Well, it is perhaps these things, and I say this as someone who has been employed since high school, and I am nearing 45. But it can and should be something more. There is a strong current in Catholic social teaching, renewed beautifully at Vatican II, that there is dignity and purpose in work. Not that there is dignity in itself in working with our hands, or applying our minds until we have spent ourselves in exhaustion. But rather, there is dignity in taking all of our strength, creativity, and much of our time and investing it in something greater than ourselves. Corporate profits? Not as an end in itself. Rather, allowing others, who may not have the most remote interest in church, to see that Christ really is risen, alive, well, and powerfully active. And that happens through you and me. But only if we surrender.
I will be learning about and improving my surrender until the day I pass into the next life, and quite possibly well beyond. I have learned a great deal about surrender in the past year, the desire to allow Christ, who offers His fullness to me constantly through the timeless celebration of Easter, to live in and through me. Transformation comes in fits and starts, but the truly transformed person becomes a vessel through whom Christ shines without obstruction. Through Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling,” and Brother Lawrence’s “Practice of the Presence of God,” I have been called very profoundly in the past year to the challenge of living in Christ’s presence all of the time, even at work. What does this mean? Most directly, it means being at least faintly conscious of Christ all of the time. It is the most profound understanding of “What Would Jesus Do?” It is allowing Jesus to do through us, what we would not or cannot do ourselves. I find constant reasons at work to become frustrated and impatient. Change does not happen rapidly enough; people make the same errors again and again (the bane of any Quality Manager!). But all of this is because I am trying to change things. If I give my best, and then leave the outcome to God, then God is glorified through my actions, rather than just drawing praise to myself. And along the way, I treat people with the respect, honor, and appreciation that makes the world around me truly different. I become an active builder of the Kingdom of God.
There is no greater model of surrender than Christ crucified. And the process of surrender is an often-painful process of self-emptying. But we know now, even on Good Friday, that the Passion happened in one day, and that a perpetual Easter waits on the other side. One of the most amazing things about the Catholic understanding of God, to me, is the appreciation that God does not expect or ask us to walk perfectly as a disciple. Perhaps most clearly understood because Jesus himself suffered and struggled, our High Priest is very aware of our limitations. And He offers to carry the yoke, the cross, the burden of our challenges with us. Jesus does not ask us to change the world, or to be His presence in that world, so much as to step out of the way and allow Him to get to work. And He is willing to help us even with that surrender. If we are willing to risk it, Christ can even transform where and how we work. May the joy of Easter live in your heart always.
About the Author
Bryan is a working husband and father. His family and friends will tell you that he is a deeply thoughtful person who lives with integrity and faith.