My best friend from college used to affectionately reminisce about a daily conversation he frequently had with his father: “How was work today, Dad?” “Work is work, Johnny boy. That’s why they call it work!”
Work is tedious. Work is a grind. It is hard, long and incredibly laborious. Work is work. At times however, work can also be extremely satisfying. Accomplishing something good, worthwhile and beneficial for others can lead to a gratifying sense of purpose and fulfillment. Through all of the peaks and valleys, one thing is for certain – we can work all day, all week and all year long, but there will always be more that we feel we must get done.
When it comes to labor, we need a patron. Thankfully, the Church points us to our good friend and companion, St. Joseph! The Liturgical Calendar recognizes St. Joseph specifically on two different feast days. The first is the Feast of St. Joseph as the Husband of Mary (March 19), and the other is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1). How sweet it is to know that we don’t have to toil alone. It is this faithful friend who can inspire us when we need motivation, carry us when we can’t find the energy and remind us of our mission when we forget what it’s all for.
There are certainly moments or even days when we wish we no longer had to work. Sometimes we dream that in a perfect world we could just hang up our bootstraps and chill out in relaxation for the rest of our lives. Is that true? If Adam and Eve had never succumbed to the forbidden fruit, would humanity enjoy perpetual R&R as we leisurely stroll through a life of bliss?
Contrary to popular belief, work has been an integral part of God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning. Before sin entered the world Adam was already called to till the soil. Adam, made in the image and likeness of God, was called to work. The fundamental difference was that Adam’s work was not laborious in nature, and it was always fruitful. After the Fall, Adam was forced to toil by the sweat of his brow and experience thorns and thistles (Cf. Genesis 3:17-18). Work became difficult and was no longer always abundant with fruit.
Amidst the daily grind, we become like God in very tangible ways. First, God allows us to be creative. The Lord is the Creator of the universe, and yet he has given humanity the dignity to participate in his creative genius through our own human creativity. Second, God is the Provider. Through our work, humanity is given the dignity to provide for others as well. This is first and foremost lived out in our homes and our families. We are called by God to selflessly provide for the needs of our loved ones, both big and small. Scripture goes so far as saying, “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Consecrate your work to the Lord, and he will cultivate it to bear great fruit. The results may not always be what we expected, but God will be faithful when we entrust our lives and our work to him.
In modern American culture, most noble, hard working men do not have a problem with making the daily sacrifices necessary, in order to take care of their families. Rather, more men today are wrestling with the pressure and temptation to overwork, all veiled under the slogans so commonly known as “Ambition”, “Winning” and “Success”. For many, the temptation is so great that they rarely ever see or relate to their families. Blindly, we sometimes believe that the more money we make, the better we can take care of our families. But when work and family collide and the balance begins to unravel, the cost of our absence from our families outweighs the benefits and in some cases, the damage has been done and cannot easily be reversed.
Consider St. Joseph. He was a carpenter by trade, and let’s safely assume he was a very good carpenter. If Joseph thought like a modern-day American and understood that in order to take care of his family, he needed to grow his business as much as possible and make as much money as he could; what should he have done? Was it a wise decision to have moved to Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth (Cf. John 1:46)? Nazareth was by no means the mecca for business nor did it have a robust economy. Let me help you out, Joseph, with a little practical advice for your trade: move to Jerusalem. More people, more work, more money to be made, and therefore more success. Joseph, don’t you know you need to provide for your family?
Joseph moved to Nazareth because he listened to the voice of God. The Lord was his guide in all things including his practical business decisions, even if it affected his earning potential. Living in Nazareth was precisely what was needed for the protection and support of the Holy Family.
Having success and building wealth is not a bad thing, so long as we never lose focus on what is most important and we unwaveringly follow God’s desires for our lives.
- Do you perform honest and noble work in order to support your family?
- Do you make it home to have dinner with your family at least five days a week?
- While you are at the dinner table with your family, do you check work emails, text messages and/or phone calls?
- After a long day’s work, do you waste potentially valuable and precious time with your family on TV and/or other social media?
Heavenly Father, inspire me to emulate and consecrate all my work to you through St. Joseph.
St. Joseph, reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children. Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy. Amen.