Spirituality of Work

Even as the world observes the ‘World Labour Day’ yet again on 01 May this year, we are invited, once again, to remind ourselves to do our daily work. Work is, primarily, meant to realize our dignity and self-esteem. Among all the living beings, we the human beings are exceptional beings and are called to work in order that we attain our true identity and uniqueness. By being faithful to our assigned work, we, first of all, appreciate our God who created us with intelligence and freedom. Secondly, it is through work that we are able to improve our intelligence and skills. The purpose of this humble write up is meant to portray the significance of work in our life. This calls for looking at work from a spiritual perspective.

Significance of Work
According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Work is the use of bodily or mental power in order to do or make something. It is a task that is to be done, not necessarily connected with a trade or an occupation. We read in the Holy Bible that “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15) even before the fall. This clearly tells us that work was natural to man. However, it became burdensome only after Adam’s disobedience to the command of God. God made man precisely to work. Hence it is only natural that work should enrich man. Every work, however menial or proficient, does enjoy a dignity as part of God’s original plan for man. When we look at the life of Jesus, a greater part was spent at a carpenter’s worktable. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk. 6:3). Work is something ennobling and worthy of the best of men. St. Paul always directed the Christians to follow his example of work. He had even cited attention to his own toil-worn hands (Acts 20:34). He goes even to the extent of commanding that “if any will not work let him not eat” (2 Thes. 3: 10).

Spirituality of Work
In every work the whole person, the body and soul, is at work, whether it is manual or intellectual. It is also to the whole person that the word of the living God is directed. Work helps everyone to come closer to God, the Creator and Redeemer. It is through work one can participate in God’s salvific plan for man and the world. We should be aware that in the most ordinary everyday activities, we are participating in God’s activity. Even as man sustains his family, through his work, he also enhances the growth of the society. This Christian spirituality of work should be a heritage shared by all. Through work we are called to build up the world and for the welfare of our fellow brothers and sisters. Work is necessary for survival and well-being. Even so, when we engross ourselves into our work, we are able to guard ourselves against temptations which arise from idleness.

Work as Duty
Since God created us in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), we are to share in his own creative work. “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). Work is a basic human good. Even if people regard work as a necessary evil due to laziness or or whose work is tedious, yet work gives fulfillment to people. It is true many people may not hold the so called “white collar jobs” yet we should learn to draw satisfaction from our work. Every worker should appreciate the value of his or her own work and take satisfaction in it.

Work as Recreating the Earth
Man has received a special mandate from God to take care of the earth. Within the limits of his own human capabilities, man is also expected to advance this earth and discover the resources contained in the whole of creation. We find this truth at the very beginning of Sacred Scripture, in the book of Genesis, where the creation activity itself is presented in the form of “work” done by God during “six days,” and “resting” on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). We are invited to imitate God both in working and also in resting, since God Himself wished to present His own creative activity under the form of work and rest. This activity by God in the world always continues, as the words of Christ attest: “My Father is working still, and I am working” (Jn. 5:17). Therefore, man’s work not only consists of a rest on every seventh day but also in preparing himself to be part of that rest which the Lord reserves for his faithful servants. (Mt. 25:21)

St. Joseph, Patron of All Workers
Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth. The Gospel specifies the kind of work St. Joseph did in order to support his family. St. Joseph was a carpenter. This simple word sums up St. Joseph’s entire life. Having learned the work of his foster father, Jesus was known as “the carpenter’s son.” If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, so too, Jesus’ work at the side of Joseph the carpenter. That is the reason why the Catholic Church has declared St. Joseph as the patron of all workers and dedicated May 1 in memory of St. Joseph, the Worker. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, St. Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption. St. Joseph sanctified his daily life and the family of Nazareth with his work. St. Joseph is the model of all the workers who remain faithful to their work, despite the discouragement or tiring.

Finally, the ‘World Labour Day’ also invites us to remain faithful to our assigned task. It is significant because we are accountable for the salary that we draw for our work. If we remain faithful to our work, the salary we draw would benefit our families, if not it would vanish in the thin air. At the same time, we should combine work with prayer. It is in prayer we become aware that our work is not only meant for earthly progress but also for the kingdom of God. It is prayer blend with work that enables us to remain attuned to the constant promptings of the Holy Spirit who always guides our everyday activities. Therefore, let us once again reiterate our commitment to work.
Rev. Fr. Loyola Antony
St. Joseph Church