On the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker which is celebrated on May 1, we are reminded of this often-ignored dignity of our work, all kinds of work, big or small, as long as it is not sinful work. It is a matter that needs a lot of airing out and clarification, especially these days when a lot of confusion and error hound this very important aspect of our life.
Work is a gift of God for us. It is part of our human nature. It’s not a punishment due to our human limitations, let alone, our sins. As we learn from the Book of Job, “A man is born to labour, and a bird to flight.” (5,7) In fact, a man who refuses to work for no good reason would undermine his humanity.
Work is what we need for our human development, both personal and social. But more than that, given our dignity as image and likeness of God, children of his, sharers of his divine life and nature, our work is actually a participation in the ongoing providence and governance of God over all his creation.
In effect, our work, no matter how ordinary and small it is, is where we have our usual encounter with God. It’s where the drama of whether we are with God or not, whether we give glory to him or not, whether we truly love him or we simply are loving and indulging on ourselves, takes place.
Our work is meant to foster our dignity as persons and children of God. It’s never an enslaving element in our life. It is what would truly humanize and Christianize us. Wherever we are, we should see to it that everyone has the proper understanding of work and always has work to do.
Whether one is at home doing the usual household chores or immersed in the different levels of the world of business or the farms, schools, etc., he should know the true nature and purpose of work and act accordingly.
That way, whatever one’s work is, he is certain that he is affirming and developing his human and Christian dignity while working. A certain sense of joy and fulfillment would fill his heart.
For those who have people working for them, they have to make sure that their workers are happy with their work. Business leaders, for example, should give due attention to their workers and make due investments for the proper human and Christian development of their workers. In this, they should not be passive, but should take the initiative to know their workers’ condition and see how they can be developed.
It is usually in the world of business that a lot of violations and abuses are committed in the area of work. Businessmen should not worry only about profits and market shares. They should actively look into the over-all welfare of their workers who, with their inferior position in the organization, are usually prone to be taken advantage of.
Other than simply interested in the technical aspects of work, businessmen should see to it that their workers are properly motivated and remunerated. The relation and interaction between bosses and workers should be abiding, close and warm. Without compromising the professional aspect, the relation should be family-like. Everyone should deal with everybody else as persons and not just as some kind of automatons.*