Recently I gave a talk to a men’s conference on a “spirituality of work.” It was fun to write, pray with and deliver! I want to share a few of my notes here. They’re notes, so please excuse their sloppy unevenness.
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The Gospels are clear, Christ was a man of work. When the Pharisees attacked him for healing on the Sabbath, he said: “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”
He was a manual laborer, from an early age. The Shroud of Turin shows a man with big hands, thick fingers. Joseph apprenticed him, taught him hard work, to revere ‘the sweat of his brow,’ exhaustion from a good day’s work.
But Jesus, as we see when he hangs behind in the Temple at the age of 12 to enter a Rabbinic debate, is also an intellectual. His extraordinary teaching and debate skills, as well as his mastery of the Hebrew Scriptures, show him to have labored long and hard at study from the age of 12 to the age of 30. 18 years of crafting his Gospel, readying every parable and teaching, honing his debate skills.
It’s very significant that the VAST majority of his life and work was hidden from view – 30 of his 33 years of life! The most important work of Redemption is done out of sight, out of the public eye, over years of quiet and faithful labor. It also shows that time and energy we invest in preparation and training possesses great power in God’s mostly hidden providence.
The Gospel says the family business Jesus and Joseph ran was that of a tekton. Mostly translated ‘carpenter,’ it actually is broader: an artisan, craftsman, or even a general contractor, a small business owner. This is the work of ʽAm haʼaretz “the people of the land,” as they were called, the blue-collar class that Jesus drew his core-team disciples from. No mistake the Sanhedrin described Jesus’ disciples this way in Acts 4:13:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.
Jesus also labored to the point of exhaustion in his public ministry. He never stopped traveling, teaching, praying, debating, healing, exorcizing demons, raising the dead, feeding the people. And he invited others to join him – the disciples and others – which wildly complicated his efforts in the face of misunderstanding, resistance, bickering. He thrust himself in the most volatile situations.
Then there is the supreme labor of the Passion, as he drags the Cross-plow across the hard and rocky soil to ready it for the seeds his Spirit would plant. And even in his Risen-Ascended glory, he sets to work on “making all things new” by opening himself unreservedly to humanity to invite us to co-labor with him as his Body. And Church history has proved this a disastrous project, and yet he never ceases in “laboring to love us.” Ever.
He INVITES US TO DEEPEN OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH HIM IN WORK. Which he LOVES. Co-working can build intimacy through cooperation, and this is clearly his favorite way to grow close to us. Christ LONGS to continue his work on earth WITH YOU. He waits for you to INVITE HIM TO JOIN YOU. As God-made-Man, Jesus wants to enter into every profession, every career, every possible work — but he needs us to do that. And when you finally invite him to join you (or you join him!), you’ll find he has Midas touch and he wants to share it to you. Everything he/you touch goes gold, gets redeemed, consecrated, becomes the raw building material for the New Creation. Nothing you work on together is ever lost.
ASK HIM TO APPRENTICE YOU. Ask St Joseph to teach you how to learn from his Son. Jesus IS A HARD WORKER. He loves when you work hard with him. Sweat, grow weary with him. I think this is implied when he says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” To work with him makes all labor light. It fills work with wonder, joy, surprise as we see him multiply loaves, fishes, wheat, wine. Transform the natural order. Love makes labor thus.
JESUS ALSO KNOWS HOW TO SHABBAT, TO REST, PARTY AND CELEBRATE – INVITE HIM…OR, BETTER, REALZIE HE IS YOUR REAL REST FROM WORK, HE IS CELEBRATION. Jesus IS the Sabbath, the place where God rests to look at all the labor you have done with him, and says: very good, very beautiful. And he invites you to do the same, and say the same of him.