In order to understand work as a holy endeavor it is necessary to receive more deeply the truth that Jesus worked. He had a job. He was a carpenter. The Gospel of Matthew relates, “What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands! Is He not the carpenter, the Son of Mary…” Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords worked daily as a carpenter for many years before setting off on his mission to redeem the world. Pray and be with Jesus as he works in his carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.
Saint John Paul II makes the important point in his encyclical Laborem Exercens that since Jesus was himself a laborer, “It can indeed be said that he looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man's likeness with God, the Creator and Father.” If we meditate on these truths, it can bring new meaning to our work and our path to find holiness.
We can be sure that Jesus was a hard worker, filled with virtue. I can imitate Jesus in my work by ensuring that I am building virtue in the workplace. For instance, I establish a strong work ethic and avoid the temptation to waste time, and in doing so I imitate the life of Christ. I work hard because Jesus worked hard and am pleased with the pride one takes in his or her work, no matter how mundane the task. As Saint Josemaria Escrivá states, “Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment. That work— humble, monotonous, small—is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work—great and wide and deep—of which you dream.”
Of course work can be a challenge and a cross. It is not always easy. But, I can bring Christ into this experience as well. Saint John Paul II states, “The Christian finds in human work a small part of the Cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted his Cross for us.” I can offer my challenges in work as a gift to God for the salvation of the world. What fruit that can bear!
Finally, work can also become a place of accompaniment. The work environment is one where I witness to the joy of a Christian life. A joyful Christian is the greatest evangelization tool. I encounter others at the workplace and my life of kindness, charity, and self-sacrifice, in imitation of Christ, serves as a model for others.
Monsignor Robert Panke, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, is the Rector of the Saint John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC. He is also the Director of Clergy Formation for the Archdiocese of Washington. He will be the Spiritual Director of the 2018 Principled Entrepreneurship Conference on the topic of Dignity of Work, to be held Oct-3-5.