Reflections on work as we mark Labor Day Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Labor Day offers us opportunities to reflect upon the value, blessings, and crosses of work from the perspective of Catholic spirituality. Since we spend much time working and commuting to work, such reflection is important.

In Genesis 1:26 God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." By our work, we honor the gifts and talents we received from God. Our work helps us to co-create with God by transforming creation in ways that benefit humanity, reflect Christ-like values, and bring creation to its completion and fulfillment.

Transforming the world -- and ourselves

When we make crutches or rosaries, or write about poverty, we ought to feel good because our work benefits others. When we prepare meals, grow crops, or repair computers, we should be proud because our work serves others.

In paragraph nine of Pope John Paul’s II’s encyclical On Human Work, he basically says that through work we not only transform the world, but we ourselves are transformed becoming more fully a human being.

Giving an honest day's work, being honest, and doing quality work strengthens us to live basic Christian values that we need to grow spiritually. Teaching or preaching about Jesus often helps us become more Christ-like.

Meaningful work develops our creativity, teaches us to work with others, and helps us to support family and ourselves.

Obligations of society

When we're unemployed, want a job, and can't find work, we may lose self-respect and feel humiliated and worthless. Society has moral obligations to reduce joblessness because our work helps support families, nurtures children, and enables us to help the needy.

Employers have obligations to pay just wages, provide decent working conditions, and treat employees fairly. In No. 2424 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, "Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man. It leads to idolizing money and contributes to atheism's spread."

Relationships between employers and employees should be characterized by mutual trust, communication, accountability, respect, and understanding.

Work as a cross

Sometimes, our work can be a cross. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2427, it says "Workers show themselves to be disciples of Christ by carrying their cross daily in the work they are called to accomplish." For their family’s sake, some workers heroically persevere at jobs that are crosses.

Studies indicate that our success at work often depends upon our ability to get along and work with co-workers. This fosters longevity, helps us to produce quality work, and sometimes brings us closer to God.

Relationships that we develop at work can last a lifetime. At eating places, we often see retired co-workers share coffee and news and spin stories of the good old days.

Glorifying God through out work

Work's meaning was forever transformed by Christ the worker. As a child, he learned carpentry from Joseph. He probably sweated, got dirty, and even experienced tiredness, but he was in relationship with His Heavenly Father and his work was joined to the Father's work.

We can imitate Jesus, because we too have a relationship with his Father.

Russell Wilson, a football player with the Seattle Seahawks, said, "When I step on the field, I always pray, thanking God that I'm able to wake up that morning and try to glorify the Lord with what I do on the field. I think if you try to do that, no matter what you do on the field, you can be happy about what you did."

His inspiring words remind us we can glorify God through our work.

On Labor Day, let's thank God for our talents and the work he has given us to do. Let's pray that we discover joy and satisfaction in our work, realizing that we are co-creators with God and stewards of creation.

Let's pray that the jobless find work that sustains their families, nurtures their children, and helps them support their church. Enjoy Labor Day!

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.