1 Cor 2:1-5
I recently had breakfast with a group of men who are carpenters and construction workers. Like many folks in our country, they were talking about the fragile economic situation and the challenge of “getting steady work” these days. It was evident to me that these are hard-working men; in fact, we were having breakfast at a retreat center where they had just finished giving two days of backbreaking volunteer labor to repair and improve the building. They prided themselves on what they could accomplish with the ingenuity of their minds and the skill of their hands. So finding steady work was a matter of personal dignity for them.
For many people, Labor Day is merely the unofficial end of summer, a day on which to have cookouts before children return to school and the usual schedule begins anew. But, as we celebrate the Eucharist today, we pray the liturgy “For the Blessing of Human Labor.” In so doing, we are reminded of the dignity of work and, even more importantly, of the dignity of workers. In the creation story from the first chapter of Genesis, God creates a rich, fertile world that human beings are called to cultivate and develop to the best of their ability. The “dominion” over creation that we are given is not a license to plunder the earth; rather it is a call to care for creation in a way that will enable all living creatures to flourish. We are granted the sublime dignity of participating in the creative action of God in the world.
The call to be co-creators with God, however, does not entail being consumed by work. The biblical author tells us that, when God was finished with his own work of creation, God rested on the seventh day. The Gospel, too, suggests that an obsession with work is not part of God’s designs for the human family. Jesus cautions his disciples against a crippling anxiety concerning the things we need. If we think that everything depends on us and what we can accomplish, we will never be able to rest. Jesus invites his followers to entrust their labors and their very lives into the hands of the God who truly cares for them. Such trust in God’s enduring care enables us to step back and rest when we need to.
Finding the right balance between work and rest is not always easy, is it? I have often struggled with that in my own life. Achieving that balance is made easier, however, when we realize that we belong to the Lord in all that we are and do. This is the God of life, the God who “worked” in giving existence and life to this vast and ancient universe, and the God who “rested” on the seventh day. God desires that we use all of our energies and gifts in seeking his kingdom in the world. But God is not a taskmaster; God invites us to come apart and rest, to find “Sabbath” times in our lives when we can praise the God of creation and redemption and be renewed in God’s loving presence.
- Fr. Robin Ryan, C.P.