Feast of St Joseph the Worker: Affirming the Dignity of All Work
economies should be at the service of the person, the family and the common good. His treatment of these themes in "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth) must be seriously examined by Catholics who hope to inform their thinking on economic issues, first, with the teaching of the Church.
The Catholic Catechism reminds 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 views work through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God Incarnate became a worker! The dignity of this God become Man elevates the basic goodness of all human work. The early Church Father and Bishop Irenaeus expressed the profundity of this all when he said: "Whatever was not assumed was not healed!"
Because the entire human experience was assumed by Jesus, work was 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 to re-create all humanity in the 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.
Though there is biblical support that the toil and drudgery or "sweat" of work is connected to the fracture in the order of the universe which was occasioned by sin (see Gen 3:19) work itself is not the punishment for sin. Rather, for the Christian, work can become a participation in the continuing redemptive work of Jesus. He was always doing the "work" of the One who sent Him (John 9:3-4) and we are invited by grace to now do the same.
The early Christians' worship became known as "liturgy" which meant the "work" of the Church. For them the world was not a place to be avoided but their workshop! They were there to bring all to Baptism and inclusion in Christ and to prepare the world for His return. The "Paschal mystery" began a process of transformation not only in the followers of Jesus but also in the very cosmos created through Him and for Him. It is now being recreated in Him. The work of Jesus continues now through His Body, the Church, placed in that creation as a seed of its transfiguration.
All things were created in 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. No matter what we are doing as work we are to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). That choice enables it to change the world both within us and around us.
This plan includes all work - not just what is often called the "spiritual stuff." God Incarnate, Jesus, did not just do what is too often called the "spiritual stuff." All human work sanctifies us and changes the world. St. Paul captures the hope of 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.
We can have a new relationship to 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 these insights from John Paul II and Benedict are so important. There truly is a "Gospel of Work" we experience when we embrace our work with a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit.
I am old enough to remember the days when on May 1st Communist Nations paraded their weapons of destruction through the streets of major cities promising a workers' paradise through their counterfeit ideology. It was during this time that the Church first set aside this Feast of Joseph to make a prophetic cultural statement.
She proclaimed a different way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with its "Gospel of Work". On this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker we must once again take up this task. Let us rediscover the creative and redemptive value of all human work when it is joined to the continuing work of the Gospel. Let us proclaim again in our time the "Gospel of Work."
We need to turn to the teaching of the Church on the dignity of work - and the worker- as we consider all of the implications of this important policy concern as a Nation. On this Feast of Joseph the Worker, let us seek the intercession of Patron of the Universal Church and follow his example, recognizing that all human work participates in the workshop of Nazareth. Let us reflect on Pope Benedict's words "In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions." Let the same be said of each of us.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: work, worker, workers rights, dignity, human work, St Joseph, labor, Deacon Keith Fournier
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