As Christians, we are called to witness to the Gospel not just for one hour on Sundays at Church, but throughout our whole lives: at work, at play, alone or in the company of others. Jesus instructs us: let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 4:16)
I made a home visit for the first time to patient X. This person lost a spouse 4 years ago and was now living alone in a big house. After my initial nursing assessment, I proceeded to provide the needed foot care. As I worked, we carried on a conversation, just small talk to pass the time. I asked X about the spouse who died. The story was typical of what happens when a spouse develops Alzheimer’s disease. Although it had been a few years since the spouse’s death, X began to cry as the story unfolded.
After a period of quiet sobbing, X asked, “Are you Catholic?”
“I am,” I answered.
We talked a little more about many things while I continued with my work. Although a very active senior, it became clear that X was lonely and struggling. As I was leaving, X stopped me at the front door.
“I want to ask you something,” X suddenly blurted. “I still go to communion but I haven’t been to confession in 40 years. Is that wrong?”
“I think going to confession would be a very good idea,” I answered gently. “You’ve been away from it for too long. But it would be best to phone your priest and make an appointment. You’ll have a lot to talk about.”
“But I know my sins. I can just tell him quickly.” I can only call what happened next a confession. X proceeded to recount a list of unconfessed sins, many of which broke one or more of the 10 Commandments.
By now, I was running late but felt compelled to stay and listen. Again, I urged X to call the parish priest and make an appointment for confession. I reassured and explained the need to confess. My patient nodded but time will tell if an appointment with the parish priest will be arranged.
The incident with X stayed with me all morning. What the heck, God? What was that all about? Last time I checked, I can’t be a priest so why is this person telling me their sins? During a break in my day, I stopped at the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. There were a few people for whom I intended to pray but I found myself offering all my prayers for X. The morning’s encounter greatly affected me.
I remember a long time ago, my spiritual director instructed me that because of the nature of my work, I must always try to be mindful of the Visitation where Mary, who was pregnant, visited her cousin Elizabeth and the child in her womb, John, leapt for joy. Like Mary, Wise Friend explained, I am called to bring Jesus to my patients when I visit them in their homes.
Last week, I set aside my usual organized efficiency because someone needed nursing of another kind – nursing of the soul. Last week, I heeded the Holy Spirit. But how many times have I purposely ignored the prompting of the Spirit in order to get the job done? How often have I let best practice guidelines and a hectic schedule govern my work day to the point where I haven’t been a light for others; where I didn’t let Jesus come with me for the visit?
A good friend who’s a priest once told me that in order to love people, we have to meet them where they’re at. That includes our colleagues, patients, customers, students…….the people we encounter each day at work. No wrath of God proclamations or judgements, just calm acceptance of the person as our brother and sister in Christ and an openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our relationships.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining the highest degree of standards or striving to do our duties well. God demands that too. But our professional performance shouldn’t exclude the commandment to love each other as ourselves. As Christians, we are called to be more than valued professionals. As Wise Friend directed, we must all bring Jesus to the workplace. By our daily actions and sometimes with our words, we are called to witness and evangelize. That means we are to live the Gospel even at work so as to radiate His light to those around us.