Monday, August 16, 2010

What Do You Do?

Commonly I have asked of others "what do you do"? The answer usually comes as:
-"I am a student"
-"I work in sales"
-"I stay at home with the kids"

The question, "What do you do?" commonly tells us something about the kind of work another is responsible for and from this question I would like to reflect on what work means for each of us.

We must ask ourselves, "how do I view work (school, jobs, errands, chores)?"
"Is it something I do grudgingly or cheerfully?"
"Is it a time of service or just labor?"
As human beings, we are all responsible for taking care of God’s creation. We see this in the creation account. In Genesis 1:28 it says:
"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Here we see the dominion over creation that God has given to us. But, not only are we stewards, but we are to "subdue" the earth and use it in our labor. From this it follows that there is an intimate connection between human work and how we image God. God has made the world for our sake and we were made, in part, to subdue the earth, then our act of doing so images God’s creative act in making and maintaining all of creation. In a sense, our work “unlocks” the world for us.
-Ps 8:5-6 says
“You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet”
We also see that after the fall of mankind, God continued to will that work be a part of our existence. Genesis 3:19 says
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

John Paul the Great elegantly writes about work in his encyclical Laboris Exercens One particularly moving passage says:
“By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucicified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity.” (JPII, LE, 27)
Christ endured the cross and we are to endure our cross of toil. By doing so, we participate in the redemptive work of Christ. Also, work helps us participate in the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist, which is a continuation of the work done on the cross as it says in the liturgy of the Mass - “which earth has given and human hands have made”, “fruit of the vine and work of human hands”
From this idea about work we can say with Paul as he writes in Galatians 5:13
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
Here St. Paul tells us that love is self-giving and thus working selflessly is loving. We become Christ-like in our service, thus being free from sin makes us free to serve others.
Lastly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in 306-308 that our work unites us with God
306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.
307 To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it. God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbours. Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings. They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom.
308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes.” Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.
With all of this in mind, may we each ask ourselves:
-Is our work a time of conversion?
-Do we become holy through our work?