With so many people still ‘Working from Home”, it seems a little odd to give people a day off to stay home as a way of honoring human labor and efforts in the world! Maybe we should have a universal come to work day instead! I say this only in jest.
Work – the opportunity to have employment that is capable of providing for one’s self & family, meaningful, safe, and in accord with human dignity is in fact a precious and rare thing. And while the pandemic has altered our experience of work, it has all the more highlighted its great importance. Not only are millions out of work this Labor Day in the USA, but around the world the opportunity to work is threatened. The ill effects of not benefiting from work are ever more obvious. Not only are people unable to pay bills, have housing & food security, and an engaging way to engage the vast majority of their waking hours for the benefit of self and society, but the mental, spiritual, and physical deterioration of not having work are becoming more evident. There is a vast difference between having needed and necessary downtime for rest & recreation and being without work. As Catholic Christians, we acknowledge work as a blessing from God. It is one of the ways we participate in God’s on-going, ever-present work of creation. It allows the human person to put their God given talents and skills to productive use for community and neighbor. It engages the intellect and uses the body in creative and dynamic ways to honor our very created nature as enfleshed souls. “According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than a mere doing; it is, above all, a mission,” said Pope Francis back in November of 2017. “We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbor.”
Speaking of the Creative power of Work, reminds us of the great gift itself of Creation. This past week, Sept 1st was the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. There is an integral link between human work and the care of our common home. Environmental protections and preservation is not just an afterthought or luxury of the rich. It is integral to human existence and flourishing. Without the ongoing protection of our shared world home, all of our labors, families, and communities will be threatened and undermined. But true Environmentalism is more than just recycling, it is a revisioning of our interactions with the world – rightly ordered by Divine Grace. Work has enabled us to make and produce so much, but it has also done so at a tremendous cost to universal resources, integrated environments, and holistic human interactions. We must embrace a work whereby we honor present wants with future needs. Where we learn that simply possessing and using more does not fulfill our created human purpose or hearts as much as love and restored relationships between persons and world. Moderation will be of great assistance, but so too is a deeper understanding that humankind does not stand separate from the world but as an honored participant in the world. If we would truly honor both our world and our human work, we will do so enlightened by God’s Divine Plan for Humanity.
Holy Family, who worked harmoniously with one another and the world, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries