Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

9/6/2009 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the United States we celebrate the first Monday of September as Labor Day. The Church proclaims the dignity, meaning and redemptive value of all human work.

In the industrial age, men and women were often reduced to mere instruments in a society that emphasized “productivity” over the dignity of the human person, the worker. The technological age promised something different, but has failed to deliver. Too often, men and women are still viewed as instruments and objects rather than persons and gifts. To grasp the truth that dignity of all human labor derives from the dignity of the human person who engages in it requires what St Paul rightly called a 'renewal of the mind' (See, Romans 12:2).

In the industrial age, men and women were often reduced to mere instruments in a society that emphasized “productivity” over the dignity of the human person, the worker. The technological age promised something different, but has failed to deliver. Too often, men and women are still viewed as instruments and objects rather than persons and gifts. To grasp the truth that dignity of all human labor derives from the dignity of the human person who engages in it requires what St Paul rightly called a 'renewal of the mind' (See, Romans 12:2).

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/6/2009 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - During the last years of his service to the Church and the world the late beloved Servant of God John Paul II addressed leaders of the Catholic Action movement in Italy on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He referred to what he called the gospel of work. I wrote an article on that address years ago. Sadly, I heard from some Protestant Christians who misunderstood the theme, thinking that the Holy Father was speaking of works. Nothing could have been more inaccurate. Rather, he was proclaiming another effect of grace, that in and through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ all human work has now been transformed.

One of the late Popes favorite passages from the Second Vatican Council contains these words: The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. He who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin. (GS 22)

In proclaiming the gospel of work John Paul developed a theme rooted in the Sacred Scriptures and desperately needed in this age, the dignity and meaning of human labor. In 1981 he authored an Encyclical letter entitled On Human Work which presents the Christian vision of human work. We live in an age that has lost sight of this Christian vision. This is one more bad fruit of the rupture which was wrought by sin. In the industrial age, men and women were often reduced to mere instruments in a society that emphasized productivity over the dignity of the human person, the worker. The technological age promised something different, but has failed to deliver. Too often, men and women are still viewed as instruments and objects rather than persons and gifts. To grasp the truth that dignity of all human labor derives from the dignity of the human person who engages in it requires what St Paul rightly called a renewal of the mind (See, Romans 12:2).

Pope John Paul told those assembled that because work "has been profaned by sin and contaminated by egoism," it is an activity that "needs to be redeemed." He reminded them that "Jesus was a man of work and that work enabled him to develop his humanity. He emphasized that "the work of Nazareth constituted for Jesus a way to dedicate himself to the 'affairs of the Father,'" witnessing that "the work of the Creator is prolonged" through work and that therefore according to God's providential plan, man, by working, realizes his own humanity and that of others: In fact, work 'forms man and, in a certain sense, creates him.

He emphasized the need for work to be rescued "from the logic of profit, from the lack of solidarity, from the fever of earning ever more, from the desire to accumulate and consume." When the focus of work becomes subjected to what he called "inhuman wealth, he said, it becomes a "seductive and merciless idol." That rescue occurs when we "return to the austere words of the Divine Master: 'For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'" Finally, the servant of the servants of God proclaimed that Jesus, The "divine Worker of Nazareth" also "reminds us that 'life is more than food' and that work is for man, not man for work. What makes a life great is not the entity of gain, nor the type of profession, or the level of the career. Man is worth infinitely more than the goods he produces or possesses.

What a profound and truly liberating message for our time and for this Labor Day! This gospel of work needs to be proclaimed anew on this Labor Day. Our Catechism instructs us: Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat." Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work. Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and beneficiary. By means of his labor man participates in the work of creation. Work united to Christ can be redemptive."

A Catholic vision of work views it in light of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ: God became a human person! The early Church Father Gregory the Theologian ( Nazianzus) , reflecting on the Incarnation, proclaimed "Whatever was not assumed was not healed!" The entirety of our human experience was assumed by Jesus, including our labor, our human work, no matter what form it takes. All work was transformed by Christ the worker! The Son of God worked. Even as a child he learned from Joseph, the carpenter, and worked with wood, with His Holy hands. Certainly he sweated, got dirty and even experienced tedium at times, but because He was in communion with His Heavenly Father all of his work was joined to the Fathers work. That is the same relationship we now have with the Father through Baptism. Certainly, He who the author of Hebrews said knew no sin was not suffering its punishment! Though there is biblical support that the drudgery or "sweat" of work is connected to the fracture in the order of the universe occasioned by sin (see Gen 3:19), work itself was NOT the punishment for sin. Adam and Eve worked in the garden and it brought them great joy. For the Christian, work can be a participation in the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus. Jesus viewed his entire life and mission as work. He was always doing the "work" of the One who sent Him (John 9:3-4). We are invited by grace to live in the same way.

The early Christians knew the dignity of all human work. Even their early worship became known as "liturgy" which literally meant the "work" of the Church. For them, the real world was not a place to be avoided - it was their workshop! They were there to bring all of its inhabitants to Baptism and inclusion in Christ and then prepare the real world for His Real return, through their prayer, their witness, their worship and their work. The Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Paschal mystery, began a process of transformationnot only in His followers, but also in the cosmos created through Him and for Him and now being re-created in Him. The work of Jesus redemption continues through the Church - which is placed in that creation as a seed of its transfiguration. This is part of what St. Paul calls the "plan" and a "mystery" of God, to bring all things together under heaven and on earth in Christ (see, e.g. Eph 1: 9-10). All things were created in Christ (see Col 1:15-20), and are now being re-created as His work continues through His Body, the Church, of which we are members.

For the Christian, "work" is an invitation to participate in that extraordinary plan, if it is joined to Jesus Christ. No matter what we are doing we are, as the Apostle wrote, to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). Our work then changes the world, both within us and around us. This means all work - not just the so called "spiritual or religious stuff, has redemptive value. Remember, God Incarnate did not just do the "spiritual stuff. All human work sanctifies and changes the world which God still loves. St. Paul captured the hope of all creation when, in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans he reminded us that all of creation "groans" for the full revelation of the sons and daughters of God. We can have a new relationship with the entire created order - beginning now- because we live in the Son, through whom and for whom it was all created and is being re-created.

That is why this insight from the late beloved Servant of God is John Paul II is important for us to consider on Labor Day. There truly is a gospel of work. Let us renew our minds and live this gospel of work in the way in which we engage in labor. In His Ascension, Jesus did not leave us orphans. Rather, He lives in us and we now live in Him, through the Holy Spirit. He has capacitated us to live differently, NOW, through the Grace poured out through the Holy Spirit and mediated to us in the Sacraments. We can live this Gospel of Work in an age which desperately needs a new living witness of its dignity, meaning and true value. Happy Labor Day.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2015
General Intention:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Missionary Intention: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More U.S.

Obama spends an alarming $3 billion on Obamacare WITHOUT Congressional approval Watch

Image of President Obama's administration is being accused of illegally spending money on Obamacare without Congressional approval.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department may be moving forward with Obamacare regardless of Congressional concerns and a lack of funding, approving a $3 billion payment to health insurers despite the fact that Congress has not authorized any payments in annual ... continue reading


Obama Administration as Global Advocate for Radical LGBTI Agenda

Image of Randy Berry

By Keith A Fournier

Robert Reilly is right. The Obama administration is doing profound damage to the very understanding of human rights. We have fundamental human rights precisely because we are human persons. No-one should support the denial of truly fundamental human rights for ... continue reading


Climate change - WHERE IT HURTS: Scientists say warming will hit nation's agricultural heartland Watch

Image of The climate change panel's verdict came as a bit of a surprise: Greenhouse-gas emissions played a substantial role in Europe's misery, but not so much in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are very few positive things to result from climate change. Researchers now say that warmer temperatures will hit America where it counts: the nation's agricultural heartland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers presented their latest findings ... continue reading


WITCHES ARE BACK: Witchcraft reappears in today's popular mainstream culture in unexpected ways Watch

Image of Witches are seen in both religion and as a feminist symbol.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The idea of the witch is making its rounds through history again. Females, both young and old, are embracing the power that comes with the feminist witch in today's society. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a recent twitter post, popular female rapper, Azealia ... continue reading


Alaska lights up as it become the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana Watch

Image of Twenty-three states still prohibit cannabis outright. The other U.S. states have either legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized marijuana possession.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The state of Alaska is lighting up in celebration... following Colorado's lead, Alaska has become the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Voters passed the Alaska Marijuana Legalization ballot measure last ... continue reading


The Air Force pulls a B-52 from the 'Boneyard,' and you won't believe what they did with it next Watch

Image of A B-52, one of the largest and most effective bombers in the world.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in aircraft's history, the U.S. Air Force has brought a B-52 bomber back to life from the Boneyard of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nicknamed "Ghost Rider," this 53-year-old bomber had ... continue reading


Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas on the Chair of St. Peter and the Role of the Pope

Image of

By Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

The doctrine of infallibility, then, is derived from the principle of apostolic succession and from the fact that Jesus Christ promised His presence to His apostles when He sent them forth to teach all the nations (cf. Mt 28:20).  The Pope and the bishops in ... continue reading


'I don't know' whether Obama is a Christian, Governor Scott K. Walker of Wisconsin says Watch

Image of Governor Scott Walker declined to weigh in on Rudolf Giuliani's characterization of the president's patriotism and background.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When reporters asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker about U.S. President Barack Obama's religious affiliation, he said, "I don't know." Considered a possible Republican candidate for the presidency in 2016, Walker said he was not aware of Obama's faith.  ... continue reading


Fifty Shades of Madness: No Gray Area Here

Image of

By Jennifer Hartline

I can't say it any better than the Dowager Countess of Grantham: Have we all stepped through the looking glass? Yes, I'm afraid that collectively, as a culture, we have indeed. We no longer seem to recognize the plainly absurd as absurd. Up is down; out is in; ... continue reading


15 'mortifying disasters' every '90s girl experienced Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Growing up in the '90s was full of iced-tips, crop tops, died hair, Spice Girls and boy bands. Being a girl growing up in the '90s, certain disastrous things could happen that would leave you "mortified." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) With some help from BuzzFeed, ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 26:16-19
16 'Yahweh your God commands you today to observe ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 5:43-48
43 'You have heard how it was said, You will love ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 28th, 2015 Image

St. Hilary, Pope
February 28: Pope from 461-468 and guardian of Church unity. He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter