In his encyclical, Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II said, echoing the sentiments of the Second Vatican Council, “The word of God's revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, man in a sense continues to develop that activity, and perfects it as he advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation.” (25)
The Christian idea of work is that through the toil of work, the Christian joins him or herself to the cross of Christ, and through the effects of work, the Christian participates in the creative activity of our Creator God. Today we celebrate the feast day for all Christian workers, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This feast recalls that Jesus himself was a worker, schooled in the drudgeries and the joys of the vocation of carpentry by his father, St. Joseph.
In today’s first reading, St. Paul is no stranger to work either. He stays with Priscilla and Aquila, practicing the trade of tentmaking. In other places, St. Paul elevates human labor to a virtue, demanding that those who do not work should not eat, and decrying the activity of those who are idle, and busybodies. If work is a share in the activity of the creator and a share in the cross of Christ, who would ever think to turn away from it?
Sometimes, it is true, our work is far from blessed. I’ve been there. There is, of course, a responsibility of the employer to provide a workplace that upholds human dignity. But often work seems less than redemptive. To that, Pope John Paul said, “Sweat and toil, which work necessarily involves the present condition of the human race, present the Christian and everyone who is called to follow Christ with the possibility of sharing lovingly in the work that Christ came to do. This work of salvation came about through suffering and death on a Cross. By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. He shows himself a true disciple of Christ by carrying the cross in his turn every day in the activity that he is called upon to perform.” (Laborem Exercens, 27)
And so we all forge ahead in our daily work, whether that be as a carpenter, a tentmaker, a homemaker, a mother or father, a laborer, a white collar worker, or whatever it may be. We forge ahead with the joy of bringing all the world to redemption through creation, through the cross and Resurrection of Christ, and through our daily work. Let us pray.
maker of heaven and earth,
we praise you for your glory.
Bless + us as we continue to do our work,
and bless all that we do for you.
Help us to carry out all our activities
for your honor and glory
and for the salvation of your people.
Guide us in all we do,
and help us build your kingdom
and come to our reward.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.