Reflecting on the value of work Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Sep. 01, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Labor Day is a public holiday which honors the American labor movement and contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. It also offers us opportunities to reflect upon the value of work.

Through Baptism and Confirmation, our daily lives are consecrated, through the indwelling Spirit, to proclaim, reveal, and witness to God's Kingdom through our prayers, Eucharist, charity, and our daily work.

Be proud of work

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

Workers who make crutches, crucifixes, or build houses transform raw materials that God created into products that benefit others. Workers who grow crops, wait on tables, work with computers, or prepare meals should be proud because their quality work benefits others. Khalil Gibran wrote, "Work is love made visible."

Once I was in the Platteville Public Library when primary school children were making posters. A little girl kept showing her mother her masterpieces. She was rightfully proud of her works of artistic love and wanted to share them with an extra special person -- her Mom.

When I taught high school, I especially remember coming home one Easter after weeks of teaching, parish work, coaching, making out grades, Good Friday jail services, and more. I felt numb with stress.

Mom welcomed me home with motherly love and a home-cooked meal. Her food tasted extra-delicious because it was cooked and served religiously with love.

Spirituality of work

In an essay entitled "The Spirituality of Work," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, "In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, slaves did manual work. Freemen did not. Strenuous and backbreaking work was seen as beneath the dignity of free people and therefore expected of slaves.

"The ancient Jewish world answered that with a work ethic flowing from their relationship with God. Creation was valued, developed, and worked to meet the needs of everyone in the community. There was no shame in hard work; rather, work was honorable and honored."

The Blessed Mother cleaned, cooked, and worked for her family and others. Jesus worked as a carpenter in Joseph's shop. By the sweat of his labor, he raised work to a higher level of dignity.

On Labor Day, let's pray that the jobless -- single and married -- find work that sustains themselves and their families, nurtures their children, and contributes to the common good.

May we find joy and satisfaction in our work especially by realizing that we are co-creators with God and stewards of God's creation.

May we praise and thank God through our work and Christ-like relationships with co-workers, employers, or employees. Finally, may we enjoy a renewing, fruitful Labor Day!


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