“Work is for man, not man for work. “
Labor Day is a day on which families gather for cookouts and parades march through our town squares. It is a day when we all get to sleep in a bit later than usual and we relax from what is so often a frenzied pace in our contemporary existence. The United States Department of Labor tells us of this National Holiday, "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."
Our Catechism instructs us: "Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat."( 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. 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. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary.
For the Christian, "work" is an invitation to participate in that extraordinary plan, if it is joined to Jesus Christ. No matter what we are doing we are, as the Apostle wrote, to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). Our work then changes "the world", both within us and around us. This means all work - not just the so called "spiritual" or "religious" stuff, has redemptive value. Remember, God Incarnate did not just do the "spiritual" stuff. All human work sanctifies and changes the world which God still loves.
We can live this "Gospel of Work" in an age which desperately needs a new living witness of its dignity, meaning and true value. Happy Labor Day.