St. Anthony – Monthly Meditation
Work, A Holy Redemptive Duty
by Fr. Roger A. Synek
Labor Day was initiated in the United States in the late nineteenth century to recognize, among other things, laborers and their contribution to the accomplishments and developments of the United States. In light of Christianity, work must be seen as a holy duty. “Human work,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in paragraph #2427 “proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.” To rephrase this proclamation, human work is holy because we were created to act like God, to share in God’s work. As God’s “work” was to “create” the universe, so we, made in God’s image and likeness, “prolong” or continue this work and create many things. There are many laborers who work to manufacture ingenious ways to light our homes, yards and cities – a way to “subdue” light and darkness. Many laborers cooperate in God’s work to create new varieties of vegetables, grains, fruits, drink and meat as food for our own dining room table and the dining room tables of many others.
This “work,” as the CCC continues “is a duty:” and “If anyone will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thes 3:10). Human work is a duty because Jesus commands us to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner (cf. Mt 26:31-46). Society may expect people to help others during natural disasters and personal crises, but God demands us to be disciples and love our neighbor during these emergencies just as Jesus loves these distressed children. God also makes it our duty to continue to help these brothers and sisters of ours well after these emergencies have passed by providing for their needs as laborers in the workforce.
If, between emergencies, we as disciples of Jesus do not reflect on our work as being a holy duty, we may not see how “Work” also “honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents [we have] received from him” (CCC #2427). It is amazing how many skills and abilities God has actually created us with. The very act of going to work and using these God given skills and abilities, just so we can provide for our own family, honors God. But even more amazing, just by using our “gifts” and “talents” at our job, we actually serve Jesus. When Jesus commanded us to help the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner, he also said “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Mt 25:40).
One last comment about work to ponder, work “can also be redemptive” (CCC #2427). We all know how Jesus redeemed the world. We remind ourselves of this selfless work every time we profess our faith through the Creed: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (The Roman Missal). Jesus willingly endured the mockery, the scourging, the excruciating pain of the crucifixion. As disciples, as being created in God’s image and likeness, we too can endure “the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary” (CCC #2427). Work can be hard at times. When we act like Jesus and willingly carry our cross every day, enduring hardships, we enter more deeply into the authentic redemptive work of Jesus.
Our work can be redemptive. Our work can be holy. With the proper attitude, we as laborers can give glory and honor and praise to God through our work.
Fr. Roger A. Synek
St. Anthony Catholic Church