Saint Joseph the Worker

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate one of my very favorite saints, Saint Joseph.  You might be thinking, didn’t we already celebrate his feast day this year?  And the answer to that would be yes, absolutely!  The feast – or rather the solemnity – of Saint Joseph (it’s a solemnity because he’s a very special and important saint), is on March 19th.  But today we celebrate the memorial of the very same Saint Joseph, this time because he is the patron saint of workers – people who work!

And that, quite frankly, is all of us.  We all have work to do, don’t we?  We have our schoolwork and our chores.  We may have to work on a sport or a musical instrument or develop one of our talents in some way.  And then there are our parents.  They may go to work, so that they can earn money for the family, and so that people who depend on them can thrive.  They also work in our homes, taking care of you, and making the home a place that’s comfortable for the family.  They cook and clean and all those things that are part of a parent’s life.

So all of us work.  And sometimes work is great.  Maybe it’s exciting, maybe it helps us learn new things, maybe it allows us to use our talents in a special way.  But sometimes work isn’t so exciting: sometimes work is, well, work and it makes us wish we can do something else with our time – anything else!  For some people, work can also be oppressive: maybe it’s not work they like to do and maybe it doesn’t help them care for their families enough.  There’s all sorts of work out there.

But Catholic teaching on work is that it is always supposed to be part of the creative work of God.  Our first reading paves the way, doesn’t it?  This reading is from the end of the story of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis.  Here, God has just finished creating everything there is, and as his last, most splendid creation, creates human beings: male and female, famously, Adam and Eve.  Everything he has created is good, and now God gives that goodness to the man and woman and charges them to keep on creating with him: “Be fertile and multiply,” he says to them, “fill the earth and subdue it.  Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”

Our work, all of it is a sharing in the creative activity of God.  Our Gospel today shows us that even Jesus himself was a worker: he was the carpenter’s son (that carpenter would be Saint Joseph!), and Jesus was not ashamed to be known that way.  The people of the time took offense at this, because they thought the Messiah wouldn’t have to be someone who was a laborer.  But they had it all wrong, because work was something that God did in the beginning, and continues to do all the time.  When we work with faithfulness, we are part of God’s creating power!

So for all of this, we have the intercession and patronage of Saint Joseph, who was a worker, a carpenter, and knew all the blessings and drudgeries of labor.  We should always look to him when work is hard or when we don’t have work, so that he might intercede for us.  And when work is great, we should join with him in giving praise to God who gives us the blessing of work.  And so let us pray:

Almighty God,
maker of heaven and earth,
we praise you for your glory
and the splendor of all your creation.

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.

Through the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker,
guide us in all we do,
and help us build your kingdom
and one day, come together to eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Saint Joseph the Worker

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 humankind, created in the image of God, shares by their work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of their own human capabilities, they in a sense continue to develop that activity, and perfect it as they advance 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 her or himself 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, who worked hard, as many do today, to support his family. 

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul, newly Christian, works hard at the task of proclaiming the Gospel. But we also know that, in order not to be a burden to those to whom he was preaching, and thus not to be an obstacle to their faith, he worked at 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 inactivity 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, woe to those who turn away from it!

Sometimes, it is true, work is far from blessed. 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 in 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, humankind in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. They show themselves true disciples of Christ by carrying the cross in their turn every day in the activity that they are 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, a consecrated religious or ordained person, 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. 

Saint Joseph the Worker

Today’s readings

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 humankind, created in the image of God, shares by their work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of their own human capabilities, they in a sense continue to develop that activity, and perfect it as they advance 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 her or himself 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, who worked hard, as many do today, to support his family.

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul, newly Christian, works hard at the task of proclaiming the Gospel.  But we also know that, in order not to be a burden to those to whom he was preaching, and thus not to be an obstacle to their faith, he worked at 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 inactivity 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, woe to those who turn away from it!

Sometimes, it is true, work is far from blessed.  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 in 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, humankind in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity.  They show themselves true disciples of Christ by carrying the cross in their turn every day in the activity that they 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, a consecrated religious or ordained person, 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.

Almighty God,
maker of heaven and earth,
we praise you for your glory
and the splendor of all your creation.

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.

Through the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker,
guide us in all we do,
and help us build your kingdom
and one day, come together to eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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