Week 22, Labor Day (USA)

“May Your favor, O Lord, be upon us, and may You give success to the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)

O God, Who through human labor
never cease to perfect and govern
the vast work of creation,
listen to the supplications of Your people
and grant that all men and women
may find work that befits their dignity,
joins them more closely to one another
and enables them to serve their neighbor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
Prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (click for all readings)
“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.* Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation (Genesis 1:26-2:3.”

Today’s reflection is an excerpt from Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Labor). Click here for the text of the entire encyclical.

“The truth that by means of work man participates in the activity of God himself, his Creator, was given particular prominence by Jesus Christ-the Jesus at whom many of his first listeners in Nazareth “were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? ... Is not this the carpenter?’” For Jesus not only proclaimed but first and foremost fulfilled by his deeds the “gospel,” the word of eternal Wisdom, that had been entrusted to him. Therefore this was also “the gospel of work.” because he who proclaimed it was himself a man of work, a craftsman like Joseph of Nazareth. And if we do not find in his words a special command to work-but rather on one occasion a prohibition against too much anxiety about work and life - at the same time the eloquence of the life of Christ is unequivocal: he belongs to the “working world”, he has appreciation and respect for human work. 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. Is it not he who says: “My Father is the vinedresser,” and in various ways puts into his teaching the fundamental truth about work which is already expressed in the whole tradition of the Old Testament, beginning with the Book of Genesis?

On the basis of these illuminations emanating from the Source himself, the Church has always proclaimed what we find expressed in modern terms in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council: “Just as human activity proceeds from man, so it is ordered towards man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood, this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered ... Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it should harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and allow people as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it.”
Such a vision of the values of human work, or in other words such a spirituality of work, fully explains what we read in the same section of the Council’s Pastoral Constitution with regard to the right meaning of progress: “A person is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that people do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane ordering of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances. For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about.” This teaching on the question of progress and development – a subject that dominates present day thought-can be understood only as the fruit of a tested spirituality of human work; and it is only on the basis of such a spirituality that it can be realized and put into practice. This is the teaching, and also the program, that has its roots in “the gospel of work.””

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