We can love, serve God through work Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Sep. 03, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Doing God’s work includes serving as a Communion minister, usher, lector, serving on parish council, or other Church related activities. But our work can also be holy.

At the end of Mass, we are commissioned to “go in peace to love and to serve the Lord.” One way that we can love and serve God is through our work.

Praise God through work

This is significant because we spend much time working and going to and from work. But this does not happen automatically. We must desire to praise God through our work.

As a newly ordained priest, I once preached that the work of the school secretary was holy. She thanked me and said that she never realized her work could be holy.

A mother said, “My marriage is a gift from God. Presently my vocation is mom and wife. With six growing children, I live most of my Christianity outside of church doors. My work includes changing diapers, making ends meet, cleaning, washing, planning, encouraging my family, and much more. My husband and I offer our work to God as prayer, and we try our best to help our children grow in faith. We believe that we are doing God’s work and that our work is holy.”

Sr. Grace Remington does the same in her vocation as a Cistercian nun. She and her community praise God through cooking, gardening, washing clothes, interactions with others, study, prayer, Mass, and in whatever they do.

A single girl praises God when she stacks supermarket shelves. She makes her work meaningful because she prays for those who will purchase the items she stacks.

Doing our best

In his encyclical On Human Work, Pope John Paul II basically said that we make ourselves by the work that we do. Doing our best at work helps to build character. Feeling our work is worthwhile, receiving just compensation, and making our work a prayer help us to do quality work.

Research indicates that our success at work often depends upon how well we work with and relate to coworkers. We reveal our Christianity when we treat others in a Christ-like way.

I experienced this at the office of my former dentist. He and his staff joked and treated me, other patients, and each other with respect and love. This helped them to work hard and well.

One noon my car had a flat tire. The dentist changed the tire for me. I felt good. I joked that I would surely receive a bill, but I never did. My present dentist has a similar spirit in his office.

In Holiness in the Workplace Elizabeth Dreyer states that the more workers love each other, the more creative they become in solving work problems. We help to bring God’s peace and love to the workplace when we pray for, support, and offer encouraging words to fellow workers especially when they are hurting.

Co-create with God

Whether we are a marketing person, carpenter, homemaker, baker, seamstress, teacher, dentist, or doctor, we co-create with God in our work. We contribute to God’s continuing work of sustaining creation.

Making a crutch from wood, bread from flour, or beautiful gowns from silk are examples of co-creation. We practice co-conservation when we conserve raw materials.

Farmers, waitresses, grocers, and cooks feed the hungry. Doctors and nurses minister to the sick as do mothers who make chicken noodle soup to cure family colds.

Members of the Retired Priest’s Ministry help aged priests. From their just wages, Christian workers give to the poor, disabled, underfed, underprivileged, and others in the same fragile boat of need.

Management is also a sacred task because managers handle people’s lives. Businesses should seek to make a profit, but the priority of persons over money is the more than 100-year-old Catholic principle that guides the Church’s insights into work.

Enduring hardship

Even the most meaningful job can have its crosses. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2427), it is stated, “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.”

Labor Day is a national holiday when we honor the dignity of workers and the quality and importance of their work. Inspired by the example of Jesus and St. Joseph, on Labor Day we can pray that workers praise and thank God through their work and Christ-like relationships with others. We can also pray that those who are looking for work find jobs.

May we enjoy a holy, restful Labor Day that renews us to keep making our work holy.

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