Good and shrewd administrators
I’ve recently rediscovered the concept of kerygma while reading one of Pope Francis’ homilies. The kerygma is the announcement of the Good News of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The word in Greek has different meanings, at times more enthusiastic, such as “proclamation”, and on other occasions more intense, such as “cry”. The kerygma is the starting point of Evangelization. It is the first announcement of Jesus mainly aimed at the will (rather than at the understanding) and its goal is to encourage Faith or at least to arouse curiosity. Without kerygma there cannot be catechesis or sacraments, neither moral nor community life in the Christian sense of all these concepts.
Counterintuitively, finding reflections about the kerygma in business has not been easy. When typing literally “kerygma in business” a well-known search engine offered multiple options that proved irrelevant, ranging from a bookshop to an engineering and construction firm including several design agencies as well as branding and consulting companies.
Beyond the pastoral care of the family, it is worth pointing out that an important share of people’s lives take place at work. Nowadays there are approximately 3.300 million people employed by 330 million businesses, that is to say a little over 40% of humankind. The world of business today possibly has some contact points with the context of the early Christians: little presence of God and His Church in an explicit way. There is no Bible or catechesis, neither saints nor sacramental liturgy or other components that could shape our Faith. They did not exist at the time of the early Christians, they do exist today but they are neither shown nor known. There is, however, a growing presence of other beliefs. In this sense we could trace an analogy with the early Christians and state that we Christians in business count on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This leads me to reflect upon how we could express this pastoral care for the business world in a way that could enhance and enlarge its scope and reach.
Speaking in the first person again
Although the use of the language is a complex phenomenon, I’d like to focus on one kind of language that has prevailed in modern society: impersonal language. Impersonal language is that in which sentences do not have a concrete subject. There are thousands of examples of this kind of language in everyday phrases such as “it could be concluded that….”, “it is hot today”, “it is what happens in Argentina” or “Christ lives”.
This kind of impersonal language involves a generic way of addressing somebody rather than a specific person. To speak in a universal way, I somehow need to depersonalize myself. In our society, if I said that “God speaks to me” (a concrete somebody, in this case God) a psychiatrist could probably diagnose me with some disorder, whilst if I used the expression “my conscience told me” (a generic expression) this phrase would probably go unnoticed. I put forward the reflection that on certain occasions it might be worth avoiding the limitations that are generated by impersonal language.
To express the kerygma of the Christians in business, I suggest that we should dare to talk about our experience with Jesus using the first person. Speaking in the first person generates the possibility of finding within ourselves the experiences that are unique and ordinary at the same time. Speaking from my own personal experiences so that they can connect with your own personal experiences.
Blessed Carlo Acutis said that we are all born as originals, but many die as photocopies. Let’s live like originals and speak in the first person.
Subject and predicate
I will try to express the kerygma of a Christian in business as I in the first person. I want to talk to you using subject and predicate from my own personal experience of Jesus.
I believe that the kerygma is rooted in my personal experience.
Although I had a light approach to Catechesis and the sacraments as a child, I converted when I was 16 years old. My conversion was during a mission to Santiago del Estero, which I had unwillingly joined, “randomly” invited by the priest who was teaching us religion in secondary school. It was during that mission that one day in the evening I found myself alone in a classroom of a rural school sitting in the darkness staring at a crucified Jesus hanging on the wall. I was thinking, rather than praying, about the concept of justice. I don’t know why at that age I found rather unfair the concept of solidarity without merit, and I considered more reasonable the concept of giving each person what they deserve. While lost in thought, I lifted my eyes and deep down inside I asked Jesus hanging on the cross “Why is it that I should be merciful?”. It seemed to my eyes that Jesus was giving me the horizontal beam of the cross in which we had nailed him and my ears seemed to hear Jesus whispering to me “because I did”. Without understanding, I understood and I converted.
I don’t lean on proselytism, I believe in finding common ground, letting the others open their gates so that then we can step out together. I try to become all things to all people so that by all possible means Christ might get closer to all.
A short time ago, I attended a full day workshop with a colleague and friend from work. While we were chatting away, he said he had tried an online test of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and suggested I should try one myself to check the results I got. I thought it was a strange idea but I agreed to it. The questions were quite intense and a few minutes later I finished the test and the results were all green, except for a slight level of regular anxiety (according to this test online). My colleague looked at me and said “You are in great shape!” and I answered that, in fact, I feel that I mostly lead a happy life. We remained there sitting for a bit longer and I told my colleague casually while stretching my arms and legs “I went to a spiritual retreat last weekend and it worked wonders on me”. My colleague, who had half an hour earlier suggested the ADD test, asked me to invite him to the same spiritual retreat so that he could join in with his wife.
I believe we should dare to announce Jesus in public.
Do. We moved to a new bigger house in a private neighborhood in Buenos Aires province two years ago. We were positively surprised by the high standards of neatness and landscaping of the shared areas in the area. However, I was deeply saddened to find the statue of Virgin Mary placed in a public space in a serious state of abandonment, with damp patches and moisture and dozens of broken rosaries hanging from it, surrounded by all kinds of plants in a pot that had heartily been made with the bottom of a disposable plastic bottle. I admit my first reaction was trying to hire somebody to fix it, but it turns out there is no such service. So I called my mother and my 5-year-old daughter and in a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon we cleaned the area and restored the statue of Virgin Mary. We never said anything to anybody, but some time later the shared area where the Virgin is located was improved even further. Today, we often go there with my children to pray and other families have started to join in.
Write. I regularly read a digital magazine called Seul (seul.ar) which includes analysis and opinion articles about the challenges that Argentina faces currently. A few months ago, I felt the need to write to the letters from the readers section, but I could not find the right topic (or more accurately speaking, the inspiration) to write. I came up with the idea of randomly typing the words “Jesus” and “Christ” in the search engine of the magazine. I clicked on each of the 17 articles in Seul that mentioned either of these 2 words. Except for one case, all the references to Jesus or Christ in the magazine were associated with songs, films or series such as “The Count of Monte Cristo” or the most recent “Okupas” and “El Reino”. There were also some names of football players, entrepreneurs and public officials, some clothing brands (Cristobal Colon), even the name of a Cathedral in Russia concluding with some references to the link between Peronism/Populism and Catholicism (via Jesus Christ in this last case). I decided that with all this material I already had the content for the article which I titled “Less Self” to simply share my viewpoint about Jesus. Now we have doubled the number of articles that can be read about Jesus Christ in the magazine Seul.
Visibilize. Several years ago, I bought some encyclicals by Pope Francis and several books by Enrique Shaw to have handy in my office. My intention was to give them away to colleagues or customers should the opportunity arise. As the pandemic broke out, they remained untouched. A short time ago while I was browsing through some shelves, I came across these books that had in some way been left aside. It seemed such a shame to find them hidden away, so I decided to display them on top of a chest of drawers so that they would be easy to reach for any person that comes into my office. Even if nobody has picked any book so far, last week I did choose two of them and gave them to a fellow consultant who recently joined our Christian Association of Business Executives. In general, I feel comfortable sharing with others that I went to confession or to Mass on a certain day or even that I was praying the Rosary in a prison with inmates. I believe that by visibilizing the things that bring me closer to God I can inspire others, as well as myself.
Respectfully, I usually encourage and invite others to join activities to get closer to God.
It may perhaps be the kind of work that I do, but with the passing of time I have ventured more and more to suggest activities that I consider valuable to others such as going on retreats or other liturgical celebrations. This year, for example, we spent some days in the summer together with a family of friends who had decided not to baptize their daughters. When I offered to take their daughters to Mass they accepted willingly and I ended up taking the oldest daughter along with my two sons. Some time ago, we celebrated the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and I invited another couple of friends to come to Mass and then go in a procession around the neighborhood. They both came with their three children and we spent a lovely morning on our pilgrimage around the neighborhood. In my experience, the counterpart of inviting is being invited. For example, this year I was given a book about spiritism. I am always thankful for gifts that are honestly well-meaning.
I try to think and speak Christian
Instead of talking about being successful, I try to talk about being fruitful. Instead of viralizing, I prefer spreading. Instead of anxiety, enthusiasm. It is good to sow, though I’d rather irrigate. Whilst we seek followers on social media and the world tells us to follow our dreams, I try to follow Jesus. When I think about my children growing up, I try to go beyond the education of the future. I try to help them build a relationship with God and immerse them in an education of the origin of life.
Soccer fans chant about emotions and feelings but I believe Jesus is a passion. Whereas I see so much spirituality without God, I am a sinner that intends to live with Jesus. In the presence of so many well intended proposals of emotionalism without roots, I try to live the radical nature of the Gospel in the sense of its original meaning that makes reference to the depth, the foundations and the roots in Jesus. Instead of wondering who I am, I try to ask myself who I am for. I think we are creative, but not creators.
I believe that Christ lives
It is true that we have to open the gate of our heart to Jesus Christ since He knocks and wants us to let him in (Rv 3, 20). However, I sometimes wonder if the self-referential air we breathe might blind us from the fact that Jesus is knocking within our own hearts to be let out. These words you’ve just read are the words written by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation “On the call to holiness in today’s world”. Is Jesus knocking at the door within us to be let out of our own hearts?
The example of Enrique Shaw can shed some light on the matter. Throughout his life, Enrique took notes on several notebooks. He kept registering his thoughts and conversations with God and others. This testimony is available for us to read and get inspired: much of it is written in the first person. At the beginning of 2022, I met a member of the Christian Association of Business Executives who used to go with his father and Enrique to Pinamar when he was a child (Mr Shaw was the driver). This man shared a phrase that summarizes his childhood memories of what the everyday Enrique Shaw was like: “Enrique always brought up God in every conversation”.
I believe Christ lives. Would you be bold enough to post this phrase on social media? Like, share or retweet it… or as we Christians would say, spread it.