”Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways! By the labor of your hands you shall eat; blessed are you, and blessed will you be.” ~ Psalm 128
Today marks one of those truly special days in the Church, a somewhat random and divine oddity of sorts, one in which we witness what I can only call a spontaneous confluence of the Holy Family. For as the monthly odometer rolls over from April to May, we find ourselves celebrating the 1st Friday of the month, a devotion that many of you keep holy by way of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus https://www.americaneedsfatima.org/Our-Lord-Jesus-Christ/the-nine-first-fridays-devotion.html.
Today also marks the beginning of what Marian Devotees celebrate as the “Month of Mary,” wherein the faithful venerate and seek the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Church, in a deeper and more profound way. May is of course a month characterized by refreshment and renewal in all things. To further add to this glorious specter of Mary as Mother of our Church, Bishops from the United States and Canada today will be reconsecrating their respective countries to the Virgin Mary, a sign of our renewed devotion to the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God during these tumultuous times.
And finally, today is the Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, a day which celebrates the value and dignity of work. As such, we take a brief departure from what has become our daily Easter Season journey through the Acts of the Apostles and John’s Bread of Life discourse as explained in Chapter 6 of his Gospel, instead focusing on Readings (Colossians 3:14-15, 17, 23-24 & Matthew 13:54-58) that allow us to reflect more deeply on the virtues of love, peace, and sacrifice, all traits that Saint Joseph demonstrated while carrying out the unique role he played in our salvation story.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” These were the closing words of Saint Paul in today’s 1st Reading (Col 3:23-24), providing us with a new and fresh perspective on our approach to work and our jobs; why they’re important and who we in fact labor for. Do we ever view our work, as monotonous, stressful, or seemingly meaningless as it may appear to be at times, as the activation of the gifts of our talents in order to glorify God?
Many have a love-hate relationship with work. We may not necessarily love our jobs, but we certainly loathe the idea of unemployment, particularly those who support their families by way of their jobs. The staggering unemployment figures that continue to devastate our country in the wake of this pandemic are a reminder that many are suffering financially, not to mention the toll that unemployment can take on one‘s self-esteem and overall mental wellbeing
To that point, there are many who allow their careers to define them, engrossing themselves in a severely disordered and disproportionate manner in their chosen professions. This of course comes at the expense of their children, their spouses, even their relationship with God. I urge you all to pray with particular fervor for these individuals during this time. They have in essence stacked all of their chips on one enormous and misguided wager, one which states that their job, not their membership in the life and spirit of God’s Kingdom, ultimately defines them. When the dice come up seven, and they will, the reality quickly sets in: There’s was a kingdom built on sand.
Like everything else, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to strike the proper balance, to understand that work helps to perfect us, to shape and mold us into the holy people we are meant to be. It is not, however, the proverbial be-all and end-all.
NFL Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Andre Reed was recently asked how he survived 16 seasons in the violent world of professional football, playing in a day and age when “going over the middle” required a pass catcher to first make sure that his life insurance premiums were paid. He spoke of his mentality, his daily approach, an approach he says that everyone must cultivate. His father was a construction worker, his mother a factory laborer. Their collective mentality was rooted in discipline and toughness, preparedness and pride in one’s work. These were the traits that he learned from his parents.
As I listened to Andre, I couldn’t help but think of another football player, one of my favorite football players as a matter of fact, another Hall of Famer in Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page. I thought of him because he shared one dubious distinction with Andre Reed. Both players appeared in 4 Super Bowls...both lost all four. Yet neither of them allowed that to define them. Reed has gone on to become a leading advocate for the Boys and Girls Club of America, instilling within the youth of our country the same virtues and work ethic that he learned and subsequently possessed courtesy of his parents. Alan Page pursued a law degree after his lengthy football career came to a close and went on to become an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Setbacks on the gridiron were just that, setbacks. In no way, shape or form did either of these men allow their defeats to resonate as the final chapter of their stories.
Our jobs are valuable and important, this we know. But they serve as merely one vital component in our journey home to the Father’s House. May the spirit of wisdom and understanding guide us as we seek to discern its proper place in our lives and the lives of those who depend upon us.
“Lord, give success to the work of our hands.” ~ Psalm 90
For more on this topic, please revisit my Essay from September of last year: https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Nobility-in-a-Hard-Days-Work
Patrick44 (author) on May 08, 2020:
Thank you Fr Juan. On the topic of football I’m working on an an essay which reflects upon the Spiritual and Coaching life of Don Shula, who as you know passed away this week.
Fr. Juan R. Velez on May 04, 2020:
We need to hear more about the right balance at work, and determination that you so well describe. The example of these ball players illustrates your point very well.