Work, work, work!

From the Aug. 31–Sept. 1, 2013, bulletin of St. Martin of Tours parish, Gaithersburg, Md.

Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894, to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.  But our Catholic faith has valued work and workers for much longer than that!

The first chapter of Genesis depicts God at work during the six days of creation; and, in creating human beings in his own image and likeness, God made us able to share in the care of his creation—able to work!  Although our sin made work often hard and unrewarding, it is still part of his plan for us.  Our Lord Jesus, in becoming man, chose to be the foster-son of a carpenter, and spent most of the years of his earthly life at the carpenter’s bench.

Since Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (on capital and labor; bit.ly/CUzob), the Church’s “social teaching” has shown how our constant moral teaching applies to the ever-changing conditions of our lives from the Industrial Revolution to the present.  The rights of workers have received much attention:  the right to a just wage, to rest, to a safe working environment, to assistance during unemployment or old age, to form associations, and many others have been taught over the years.

Pope John Paul II, in his 1981 encyclical “Laborem Exercens” (on human work; bit.ly/Y6tqF), observed that performing work is a key part of living out our humanity.  No matter what product or service we may be producing, our truest product is ourselves!  And from this comes the true value of our work.

Surely St. Paul knew this when he wrote to the Colossians (3:23-24):  “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”

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