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The Feast of St Joseph the Worker and a Catholic View of Human Work
By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
I am old enough to remember what used to happen on May 1st, when some Communist Regimes paraded their weapons of destruction through the streets of many major cities in the Capitols of Nations held captive under the boot of Marxist oppression. They call it May Day and International Workers Day. The Marxists proclaimed that a workers' paradise could be achieved through a counterfeit ideology which promised a new man and a new society without need for a Savior. They lied.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I am old enough to remember what used to happen on May 1st, when some Communist Regimes paraded their weapons of destruction through the streets of many major cities in the Capitols of Nations held captive under the boot of Marxist oppression.
They call it May Day and International Workers Day. The Marxists proclaimed that a worker paradise could be achieved through a counterfeit ideology which promised a new man and a new society without need for a Savior. They lied.
It was during that period of time that the Catholic Church emphasized this Feast of Joseph the Worker. It was intended to make a prophetic statement, expose the lies of that false ideology and proclaim that the only truth which can liberate men, women and nations, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fullness of that truth subsists within the Catholic Church which He founded. (See, L.G. #8)
The Catholic Church proclaimed a different way than the false materialist ideologies of collectivism, whether they came from the left, as with Marxism, or from the right, as with National Socialism. There are those who claim that National Socialism also comes from the "left". Wherever these two false ideologies come from, in political language, they share a common foundational error and can never lead to authentic freedom.
On this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker we should reflect once again upon the creative and redemptive value of all human work, especially when joined to Christ the Worker. Though the lies of Marxist totalitarianism hold less sway in this hour, other false ideologies have now entrapped cultures once infused with the Christian worldview.
In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught concerning Jesus Christ: "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." (Gaudium et Spes #22)
The Catholic Catechism adds these insights, "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 anyone will not work, let him not eat." (2 Thess. 3:10) 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." (See, CCC # 2247 et.seq)
A Catholic understanding of human work views it through the lens of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God Incarnate, Jesus the Christ, was a worker! The dignity of this God become Man elevates thereby elevates the basic goodness of all human work.
The early Church Father Gregory Nazianzus expressed the implications of the Incarnation best when he insisted that "Whatever was not assumed was not healed!" Because the entire human experience was assumed by Jesus, work has been transformed by Christ the worker!
As a child, Jesus learned from Joseph the Worker how to work with wood. He would later climb upon a wooden cross in order to re-create all humanity in the culmination of His great work of redemption. All of the work undertaken by Jesus was joined to His Heavenly Father's work. That is the same relationship we have with the Father now through Him, with Him and in Him.
Though there is some biblical support that the toil and drudgery or "sweat" of work is connected to the fracture in the order of the universe occasioned by sin (see Gen 3:19), human work itself is not the punishment for sin.Work occurred before the Fall, in that Garden where our first parents lived in communion with God, one another and all creation.
Rather, for the Christian, all human work can become a participation in the continuing redemptive work of Jesus, when embraced with living faith and joined to His work. Jesus was always doing the work of the One who sent Him (John 9:3-4) and we are invited to now do the same in the work which is a part of our daily human existence.
The early Christians' worship became known as liturgy. The Greek word can be loosely translated work or duty. Liturgy is the work of the Church. For the early believers, the world was not a place to be avoided but became their workshop!
They were in the world in order to bring all men and women to the Font of Baptism and include them in the Body of Christ, the Church - where they participated in preparing the world for His return. The work of Jesus continues through His Body, the Church, now placed in creation as a seed of its transfiguration.
The Paschal mystery, the saving life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, began a process of transformation not only in the followers of Jesus but also in the cosmos created through Him and for Him. It is being recreated in Him.
All things were created in Jesus Christ (see Col 1:15-20) and are being re-created as His work continues through His Body, the Church of which we are members. The unfolding of all of this is a what St. Paul calls a plan and a mystery, to bring all things together under heaven and on earth in Him (e.g. Eph 1: 9-10).
For the Christian work is an invitation to participate in that plan or mystery. No matter what we are doing as work, we are admonished to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). That choice, that exercise of our human freedom, enables our work to change the world both within us and around us.
This way of viewing work includes all human work, not just what is sometimes viewed as the "spiritual stuff." God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, did not just do what is often called the "spiritual stuff." All human work sanctifies us - and changes the world around us.
St. Paul captures the hope of the fullness of redemption including all creation when, in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans he reminds us that all of creation "groans" for the full revelation of the sons and daughters of God.
That includes developing a Catholic view of work.
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