A Better Me #3: Sanctification of Work

It is interesting that many times when people are asked how often they pray each day, their answer is: once, twice, a few times, every once in a while….  If they are asked, “Why not more?”, their replies can be: “I don’t think of it,” or “I don’t have time for it,” or “I don’t make time for it,” or “I am often too busy in many necessary activities,” etc.

     It is true that they may realize that, being baptised Catholics, we are children of God the Father, living in the Mystical Body of Christ, and called to imitate Jesus Christ in each and every human action.  His words, thoughts, actions and reactions are the “good news” contained in the Gospels.  But the Gospels relate primarily the details of his “public life,” the few years that he spent with his Apostles and disciples.  His first thirty years has been called his “hidden life”, namely, his time living with Blessed Mary and St. Joseph.  In those years he lived a very ordinary life, working with St. Joseph.  

     The person of Our Lord was God who had a divine and human nature.  It is true that each one of his actions on the earth, taken by itself, could have redeemed us.  God chose his Passion and Death and Resurrection to be the crowning point of our Redemption, but it is understandable that each one of his previous human actions was ordered in itself to his Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. 

     In fact Jesus spent many years working in Nazareth as a blacksmith or a carpenter (St. Joseph’s profession).  Through his humanity He learned from St. Joseph how to work.  Each of his actions in his work was part of our Redemption.  So we want to imitate Him in and through our work, since through our Baptism, we have received his life along with the Holy Spirit and the grace to live it in his Mystical Body.

     Our culture today promotes the good use of time with an emphasis upon multi-tasking. Work is a means of communication and relationship and it can lead to a fulfillment of the human person.  

Our personal motives can cover the gamut of desirability.  We can discover our capabilities and learn how to serve others.  We can contribute to society and its advancement, support our families and aid in social progress.  Or, alternatively, we can seek wealth, power, prestige, independence, success,  or  a lot of free time for our personal activities. Many people simply continue working because, for one reason or another, they have to.

    Now we are going to have to return our gaze to Jesus in order to understand what work really is, how God sees it.  In his work Jesus did not withdraw from the world.  He did not see worldly realities as a barrier to the love of God.  Quite the contrary.  He spent a good deal of his life in his professional work.  Then, as his Person was divine and He only did good things, his work had to be good.  He had the highest of intentions doing only what pleases His Father.  “The fact that Jesus grew up and lived just like us shows us that human existence and all the ordinary activity of men have a divine meaning.” (St. Josemaria, Christ Is Passing By (New York:Scepter, 1985): no. 14.). Even more, “after the Word of God has lived among the children of men, felt hunger and thirst, worked with his hands, experienced friendship and obedience and suffering and death,” one can no longer claim “that there are things—good, noble or indifferent—which are exclusively worldly.” (Ibid., no. 112).  With the exception of structures of sin, all the earthly realities open themselves up to the redeeming love of Christ and become, as earthly realities and according to their own logic, paths for this love, capable of being sanctified and saturated with the spirit of God. “We must love the world, and work, and all human things.  For the world is good.  Adam’s sin destroyed the divine balance of creation; but God the Father sent his only Son to re-establish peace, so that we, his children by adoption, might free creation and disorder and reconcile all things to God.” (Ibid., no. 112)

     God created man to work (cf. Genesis 2:15), and only as the result of sin has the reality of work become something difficult (“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” (Gen 3:19). Work itself, however, is still a noble reality.  The greatest and most fulfilling experience can be in the discovery that it is precisely in the ordinary and the routine, that one is most likely to have an encounter with God.  There, in the panorama of work, “there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” (St. Josemaria, Conversations, no. 114) This is-using a Latin phrase,  the “quid divinum”: making “heroic verse” of the”prose of each day.” (Ibid., no 116)

     We cannot not be “living a kind of double life. On one side an interior life, a life of relationship with God; and on the other, a separate and distinct professional, social and family life, full of small, earthly realities.” (Ibid., no. 114) We have only one heart for loving, “made of flesh and spirit.  And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul, holy and filled with God; we discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things.” (Ibid., no. 114). Josemaria states that “There is no other way.  Either we learn to find Our Lord in the ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find Him.” (Ibid., no.114)

     So our work can, and must, be sanctified.  This note is intended to highlight the divine meaning of work.  It is not a curse or a loathsome burden, but rather a magnificent reality through which we actually participate in God’s creative power.  It has to become a “means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ.” (Ibid., no. 114) With this note I am trying simply to present its true meaning in God’s understanding. There are three essential aspects that sanctified work contains.  I will present each one in a subsequent note.

      This note is intended to pique your interest and to help you see that work is a gift from God.  God wants you to look for Him in your work, to find Him in your work, and in Jesus to give much glory to God the Father through your work.

     With this introduction, I hope that you will have enough knowledge to understand that God wants us to “pray” to Him much more than once or a few times each day.  An hour of work for Jesus was an hour of prayer to God the Father.  It can and should become the same for us.  Let us ask for God’s light (faith) and his help (grace) so that we can restructure the world in Christ and enable it to give God the Father the glory that it can radiate through the love of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. John

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