November 17, 2019

THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME NOVEMBER 17, 2019

WORK
Jo Massey tells the following story with a smile, “The new busboy was just 16, and because it was his first job, we were all impressed with how well he had done on his first day. Which is why we were surprised the next day when he didn’t show up for his shift. Then an hour late, he came running in, red- faced and breathless. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said. “I forgot I had a job!”

Sometimes we might wish that we could forget that we have a job. As Christian stewards, however, we recognize that our gifts, talents and even the time that God gives us to live is given for our life’s work which is our mission – Opus Christi – to do Christ’s work. Christ’s work is to be love in action for others. This includes whatever human labor is entrusted to us. St. Paul is so outraged by those who seek only leisure and their rights instead of their responsibilities that he writes to the Thessalonians, “we worked in toil and drudgery, night and day…to present ourselves as a model for you… In fact, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat!”

Our labor gives us purpose and the dignity of being co-creators with God. Our culture seems to suggest, at times, that we work in order to support our recreational and leisure activities. Our work on earth, however, has an eternal significance because God accounts for our every word and deed eternally. As Jesus said, “even a cup of water given in my name will be remembered forever.” (MATT 10:42) God works through us and yet, as we heard in today’s reading of the Gospel, work and life is not easy. We are challenged by our own weakness and at times from outside oppression. Yet, our focus remains clear. Our duty is to choose the next right or loving thing to do, praying for the strength to endure because we are empowered to, “do all things through Christ who gives us strength.”

Geologist, paleontologist and theologian Teihard de Chardin combined his work in science with his spiritual interpretation of our world and the cosmos. During his lifetime his theological works were silenced by Church authorities. His work was unappreciated. 50 years later Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis quoted him in their Papal Encyclicals. Like Teihard de Chardin, we might under appreciate the value of our work at the time and even be misunderstood because of our work by the people around us. Yet, the true value and dignity and worth of our work is for God to evaluate alone. For example, in the International Jesuit Directory the work listed next to the retired Jesuits reads, “Praying for the community.” Work is more than moving matter through time and space, work is any effort given in the name of Jesus Christ.

God is always working. In the story of creation, we read that God rested on the seventh day. This does not mean that God ever stops working on our behalf, rather it teaches us to balance work and rest. God’s work is often misunderstood by us. We know that God is always working in us for our greatest good. This is difficult to see because God’s work is often slow. Teihard de Chardin wrote the following to a young student about trusting in the slow work of God which transforms us slowly into the image and likeness of Christ.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
inpatient in everything to reach the end without delay…
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability…
And that it may take a very long time.

And so, I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually;
let them grow, let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own goodwill)
will make you tomorrow.
Only God can say what this new Spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of your believing
that his hand is leading you,
and of your accepting the anxiety
of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Teihard de Chardin

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