September Lights - Our Labor, Our Anchor
This September, let's spin off of Theology of the Body to look at labor and then dive into the anchor of our souls. We might adapt TOB terms to unpack the meaning of labor...
Original work. In Genesis 1-2, God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. After God created Adam, he placed him in the Garden of Eden to "work and keep it" (Gen. 2: 15). This reveals the dignity work, that by working we are called to participate in God's creative activity. Work was given to man in paradise as a great mission to care for the earth and better existence for the glory of the Lord and in love for humanity.
Fallen work. When Adam and Eve sinned, the consequence for woman was "pain in child bearing," and for man, "by the sweat of your face you shall eat" (Gen. 3: 16; 19). As we all know, work is not always "fun." Frequently it's just simply survival. If we are lucky, we have found that job that also enlivens our soul and pays the bills. The author of Ecclesiastes writes, "Therefore I detested life, since for me the work that is done under the sun is bad; for all is vanity and a chase after wind" (2: 17).
Redeemed work. Jesus redeemed work by working and by dying and rising for us. He made all things new, even our labor. For this reason, the Church teaches both the universal destination of goods and private property, that each person deserves a just and living wage, that each person has the right and duty to work as well as to rest from work (CCC, #2402-2406, 2426-2436). Jesus gives purpose to our work and our lives, now and for eternity.
In a nutshell, the Church teaches that the human person is not made for work, work is made for the human person. Economic systems should serve humanity: no person may be used for financial gain or personal pleasure. A few reflection questions: What does labor mean to me? Do I tend to laziness or workaholism? Do I judge myself or others by accomplishments or wealth? Do I make room for grace or believe it all depends on me (called striving)? How do I sanctify work and allow it to sanctify me? Do I give respect and fair wages to my employees? Do I give punctual, diligent, and excellent work to my employer? Do I donate to the Church and to the poor to practice dependence on God and assist others? Do I rest on Sundays from my regular work?
Now for our dive into the anchor of our souls. Many feel that life is a little crazy right now. With new waves of COVID, the messy (understatement) withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the ravages of Hurricane Ida, to feeling like we've been personally hit by a freight train at home, we risk becoming spiritually unmoored. Recently, I confided to a friend something rather difficult and she remined me that I needed to "anchor" myself. Interestingly, this is an image that the Lord had given me over the summer. Her reinforcement seemed an invitation to ponder and pray about anchoring. Hebrews states,
In Hebrews: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Dr. Mary Healy states, "As we struggle with the ups and downs of life, we are told to hold tightly the cable to the anchor that reaches all the away to the presence of God" (2016, p.128). When life seems to come apart at the seems and what we have found security in before escapes us, what are we left with...except the Lord Himself and His Word to us?
Isn't this what or who we are all looking for? That solid ground during the quake, that resting place amid the chaos, that strong shoulder to cry on, that anchor for our souls in the midst of these times? Even if every dreaded fear is realized, God is with us, sustaining and loving. Drop the anchor and go to Him, who has gone before! Drop the anchor and go to Him, every time we sense that we are becoming unmoored. In fact, He is not far, but near. He is not outside, but within. From St. Augustine to St. John Henry Newman, from Mother Mary to St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, we witness those who have gone before us, anchored in the God who dwells within (CCC, #1265).
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