“Thank God it’s Friday.” It’s a phrase that we’ve probably heard (or even said ourselves) numerous times. Instead of expressing sincere thankfulness or fostering a healthy mentality of rest, what we usually mean when we say this is: “thank God work is done.” We love to hate work. It this paradox that we face on a daily basis: we desire work, yet very often complain of it. We are unhappy when we can’t find work and yet when we have a job, we regularly express frustration about our daily grind. At times we might even imagine a “perfect” world where we wouldn’t have to work, yet somehow still reap all of the same benefits…a continuous summer vacation, if you will. But we have all experienced the feeling of restlessness when our “summer” lasts a little too long. We are naturally predisposed to work, even despite its day-to-day frustrations.
Why do we experience this contradiction? To answer this question, we must refer back to our origins, to the way God made us, and to the effects of the fall. In both creation accounts we see that even before the fall, we were created with the vocation to work. God settles Adam in the garden to “cultivate and care for it” (Gen 2:15) and gives Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, telling them to “subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Because we are His children, made in His image and likeness, we are made to participate and share in the activity of our Creator. Work was given to us as part of our mission; work is part of our nature and part of God’s plan for us.
Because work is a fundamental dimension of our existence, it was not exempt from the effects of the fall, when sin entered into every aspect of our human reality. The curse that accompanied Adam and Eve’s sin forever links work with “toil.” It is this toil that can characterize work as painful, stressful, exhausting, and fruitless etc.
Thankfully, despite original sin our work can still bring us closer to God and sanctify us. The most fundamental way we can make that happen is to unite the sufferings experienced in work with Christ crucified. In this sense, the curse becomes a kind of gift, a means to our sanctification. We have been given the opportunity to share not only in the activity of our creator but also to unite our sweat and toil to share in Christ’s redemptive work! When we unite our toils with Christ our work has new meaning. Offered to Him in love, every act no matter how small can be transformative. In surrender, our work can be transformed as part of God’s saving mission and used to sanctify others as well as ourselves. Our work can help us grow in virtue and closeness with God, reach others, and contribute to the common good.
As always, Christ offers us the perfect example. Of all possible occupations, He freely chose to labor as a carpenter for the 30 years of His hidden life. Even during His public ministry, He characterized His mission as work when He said “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn 5:17). He called His disciples while they were at work (Mt 4 18-22, Lk 5: 1-11, Mk 1:16-20) and sent them to be fishers of men and laborers in the field. Jesus, the model worker, and the apostles after Him, show us that work is fundamental to who the Father created us to be.
The next time we hear the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday” may we be reminded of the intrinsic dignity of our work as part of God’s plan for humanity, pray for those who are without work, and ask God to help us unite ourselves ever more fully with His Son through any sufferings we may experience. Through His grace may we grow in virtue and share God’s love with others through even the smallest acts of our work.
Personal reflection questions:
St. Joseph, Patron of workers, pray for us.
In Jesus and Mary,
Saint Dominic Young Adults
This is a peer run blog for the Saint Dominic Young Adults in Washington, D.C.