Feast of St Joseph the Worker: Affirming the Dignity of All Work
Because the entire human experience was assumed by Jesus, work was transformed by Christ the worker
On the Feast of Joseph the Worker, let us seek the intercession of the Patron of the Universal Church and follow his example, recognizing that all human work participates in the workshop of Nazareth.A Catholic vision views work through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God Incarnate became a worker! The dignity of this God become Man elevates the basic goodness of all human work.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - During an apostolic visit to Africa in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI reflected on St. Joseph and what he teaches us. He often uses the Patron of the Universal Church - his namesake (Joseph Ratzinger) - as an example. He told the faithful gathered in the Basilica of Mary Queen of Apostles in Cameroon:
"I ... encourage you to look to Saint Joseph. When Mary received the visit of the angel at the Annunciation, she was already betrothed to Joseph. In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse."
"He took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing. In contemplating Joseph, all men and women can, by God's grace, come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to him, just as Joseph entered into the work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in her."
"Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a "just man" (Mt 1:19) because his existence is "ad-justed" to the word of God."
On May 1 the Universal Church honors this Patron for his witness to the dignity of human work. During the last years of his service, Blessed John Paul II addressed leaders of the "Catholic Action" movement in Italy on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He used a poignant expression, the "Gospel of Work". In explaining what he meant he developed a theme deeply rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, expounded upon in the Christian Tradition and desperately needed in this age. In 1981 he had authored an Encyclical letter entitled "On Human Work" which presented the Christian vision of the dignity and meaning of human work.
In the industrial age men and women were often reduced to instruments in a society that emphasized "productivity" over the dignity of the worker. The technological age promised something different but failed to deliver. Human beings are still reduced to human doings rather than human beings. To come to a new understanding of the dignity of human labor requires what St Paul rightly called a "renewal of the mind" (See, Romans 12:2).
John Paul told those assembled that because work "has been profaned by sin and contaminated by egoism" it is an activity that "needs to be redeemed." He reminded them that "Jesus was a man of work and that work enabled him to develop his humanity". He emphasized that "the work of Nazareth constituted for Jesus a way to dedicate himself to the 'affairs of the Father,' witnessing that "the work of the Creator is prolonged" through work and that therefore ".according to God's providential plan, man, by working, realizes his own humanity and that of others: In fact, work 'forms man and, in a certain sense, creates him.."
He called them to be rescued "from the logic of profit, from the lack of solidarity, from the fever of earning ever more, from the desire to accumulate and consume." When the focus of work becomes subjected to what he called "inhuman wealth" it becomes a "seductive and merciless idol." That rescue occurs when we "return to the austere words of the Divine Master: 'For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'"
Finally, he proclaimed that the "divine Worker of Nazareth" also "reminds us that 'life is more than food' and that work is for man, not man for work. What makes a life great is not the entity of gain, nor the type of profession, or the level of the career. Man is worth infinitely more than the goods he produces or possesses."
This "Gospel of Work" needs to be proclaimed anew in an age reeling from the near collapse of a banking system corrupted by greed and the rejection of the dignity of every human person. On Friday, April 30, 2010, Pope Benedict, mindful of the pending Feast of Joseph the Worker, addressed a Vatican conference on the theme "Crisis in a Global Economy. Re-planning the Journey."
He explained the Social teaching of the Catholic Church that the dignity of human work derives from its relationship to the human person. He affirmed that ...
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