I wonder how many of us have considered the work we do to be a gift of God. Certainly most of us know that all is gift and except for our sins, everything that is good, perfect, noble and heavenly comes from God our loving Father. So too is the work of our hands. Our work is an assignment given us. It is also an essential dimension of our lives since we have all been created for God’s purposes and we are to use our capabilities to work for His glory.
I wonder how many of us have considered ourselves as being marvels that are still under construction. Yes, we are still being made beautiful and being purified so as to be perfect. After all it is believed that God rested after creating the world for six days. He did that for our sake, so we too may keep working and co-operating with his grace to reach perfection. In responding positively then, we can even help to change the world and serve our brothers and sisters. In the process, the call is also for us to encounter God in our lives. St Ignatius’ famous axiom is: find God in all things.
We will always have to depend on God, not only for our work but for the grace to develop cardinal virtues to help us along. We need to entrust ourselves to God so that we know that, all along the journey of life, God is there still labouring for us. He calls us to keep running the race, to persevere and to keep fighting against all odds. When the going gets tough, the children of God must keep going. Difficulties and anxieties need not deter us for the battle belongs to the Lord.
So we forge ahead with the Spirit of fortitude given us. We seek to fulfil our many duties toward God, family, society and fellow labourers in God’s vineyard. To succeed and not be disheartened, we are challenged to trust and to count on divine providence. To fight the good fight to the end, there is the call to keep vigilant, to overcome love of comfort and to look beyond our own selfish needs. We bear in mind that we are keepers of our brothers and sisters, and that every part of the body of Christ needs to be functioning well.
Unfortunately, being human, we carry within us many flaws and shortcomings. Our work is affected by evil which makes the journey we are on more difficult. Not only do we suffer but we cause others to suffer as well. Prudence then is a virtue we need to develop so that we never stop learning and growing. We learn what is best and set our hearts and minds to fulfilling our duties.
Thank God, then, for sending us our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Word made flesh and he lived among us. We have seen his glory. We are still learning his ways. And one way for the majority of us would be to live in the world but not be of the world.
To do this, we look to the perfect Model for us all – our Lord and Master, our Brother and our Friend. Jesus worked most of his life on earth and he excelled in all that he did. Whether it was in teaching or in his healing ministry, Jesus did all things well. He had time to fellowship not only with people but he never stopped praying to his Father in heaven.
We need only to look at the many parables our Lord shared to know how he never stopped surrendering the moments of his life to God. He spoke words of graciousness and he taught with authority. Jesus also offered his life on the Cross. In fact, his whole life was a pleasing offering to the Father whose will alone he sought to carry out at all times, even to dying on the Cross for us sinners. So, what about us? Let us seek to imitate the Perfect One, the Holy One, the One with whom the Father is well pleased.
Our lives too can be offered up to God, and a good way to do so would be to allow our daily work to be sanctified. Then we will have our Lord working through us. We will have a share and be able to participate in the redemption. Our many struggles together with our difficulties and tiredness can all be turned to good. We can give glory to God with our work. We can serve God in this way. It could be the only important thing that we can offer to God. Let us consider some factors then as we seek to be workers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Our attitude. Do we carry out our duties with vigilance at all times or only when we see ourselves being supervised? If God is the one we serve, then we are expected to work heartily, serving the Lord and not our employers. It is God, our real Master, who will reward us and it is from God that we will receive the inheritance due to those who serve him well. Is what we do worthy of God?
When we work to please our employers, we may end up struggling with some areas of our beliefs. The pro-life nurse may find herself being an unwilling accomplice in a case of senseless killing. Then there are many who will work so hard and long that their work becomes their idols, and this is detrimental to the extreme. Quality quiet time with the Lord would be a critical area totally abandoned. Without a life of prayer, one cannot talk about sanctifying one’s work.
Then if one has no concern about the sanctification of one’s work, there will also be little concern for ethical principles like the commitment to be just and to show respect for others. There would be little consideration to matters that pertain to giving fair wages, making fair demands and implementing reasonable rules and regulations. When work no longer has any dignity, how can those who do the work look towards sanctification? It may become only a means to get rich quick so that one bows now to mammon and not to God.
Always we have to keep in mind the sole commandment of love for God and love of neighbour. We are called to pay attention to the little ones, the ones who are the weakest and those who are the poorest. After all, in the final analysis, are we not mere stewards of what has been entrusted to each of us? Are we not called to be good and trustworthy servants who have to be proven worthy and at the end of our lives seek entry into the joy of our Lord? We do not want to be counted amongst the wicked and lazy servants who hide their talents and refuse to use them for the glory of God.
Yes, our many talents are meant to be used. God expects each to do his best according to our capacity. Work has been given us as a means of getting to heaven and at the end we want to hear it said, ‘Well done, faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25)