The podcast is available here.
Forbes magazine ran a list of some of the most interesting excuses for missing work. Things like:
– I just put a casserole in the oven.
– My plastic surgery needed some “tweaking” to get it just right.
– I had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning.
– I had a gall stone I wanted to heal holistically.
My two favorite:
– I woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it.
– I accidentally got on a plane.
From our Gospel reading: “Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’”
The reading speaks very clearly about the mission and work of Jesus, and, “On the third day” is a clear reference to the resurrection when this work was complete. However, in reading this passage, I was really struck by the idea of work, the work that Jesus was accomplishing, which called to mind the work we each perform. And, when I say ‘work,’ I’m talking about our jobs: teachers, lawyers, laborers, pilots, mothers, EMTs, you name it.
Some of you all are retired and some have not yet entered the workforce, in addition, a sermon on work may seem like an odd topic, but given that we spend at least a third of our lives working, perhaps the topic isn’t too odd after all. And, what we must understand—contrary to popular culture—is that the primary purpose of our work is not our income. “Fr. John done went and lost his mind!” Nope. And I’ll say it again: the primary purpose of our work is not an income. If that is true, which it should be, then what is?
From our Gospel, Herod was already looking for this trouble maker, Jesus, to kill him, and the Pharisees told Jesus of Herod’s intent. For me—and maybe I’m just a softy of a boss—but having someone threatening to kill you seems like a fairly legitimate excuse for missing work, but Jesus wasn’t buying it and didn’t let it deter him. He said to the Pharisees, “Look. I can’t be bothered with that. I’ve got things to do. I’ve got work to do.” And this work has nothing to do with money. That is not what motivated Jesus. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” Again, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” The soul purpose of Jesus’ work was not a salary, it was “to glorify the Father.” Question: if the soul purpose of the work of the one whom we claim to follow was to glorify the Father, then shouldn’t this be the guiding purpose of our work as well?
Don’t misunderstand, I know that we have to eat, put a roof over our heads, care for the family, all the other responsibilities we have, but we must also keep in mind the parable Jesus told about the man who had a surplus crop. He built himself extra barns to store it in and said to himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Jesus said, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
In the work we perform we are to have as the guiding purpose of that work the same guiding purpose as Jesus—the glory of the Father: for the love of God. If God chooses to bless us with an abundance… well, that is a sermon for another day. However, the fruits of making the glory of God our primary purpose of work are numerous: there is commitment and pride in doing a job well, there is joy in knowing that all our works —menial or great—are for God, there is resolve in knowing we serve God, society, and one another, and so much more.
My friend St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love.” (Furrow #489) What does this look like?
A deacon whose faith had been revitalized during a service came to the priest to tell her he was now ready to live for Jesus and available for service. The priest prayed with him, thanked him, and assured him that he would be called upon. Later that same night a widowed mother in the church called the priest and said she was desperate for a ride for her young son to the hospital the next day for a long-scheduled appointment with a specialist doctor. The hospital was 50 miles away in the city, and her ride had fallen through. The priest, smiling to herself at the seemingly providential provision of God, called the deacon and asked him to take this task. At first, the deacon protested that he would have to take a half-day off of work, but relented under the priest’s gentle reminder that he had wanted to serve.
So the deacon arranged the time off work and went to the woman’s house the next morning. The mother was unable to go because of her other children, so he carried the little boy out to his pickup and set him down beside him in the seat. When they had driven awhile, the boy said, “You’re God, aren’t you?” The deacon said, “No, of course not. Why would you say that?” The boy said, “Last night I heard my mother praying to God to send someone to take me to the hospital. I thought you must be God.” The boy was quiet for a minute, and then he said, “If you’re not God, then you work for him. Right?”
The deacon responded, “Now more than ever, son. Now more than ever.”
In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
No matter your calling in this world: whether you’re volunteering, working for a salary, studying for a test, let all your efforts be seasoned with love and perform this work with joy and to the very best of your abilities, with your soul purpose being the glory of God.
Let us pray:
O Lord, my God,
Creator and Ruler of the universe,
it is Your Will that human beings accept the duty of work. May the work we do bring growth in this life to us
and those we love and help to extend the Kingdom of Christ. Give all persons work that draws them to You
and to each other in cheerful service.
We unite all our works with the Sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass that it may be pleasing to You and give You glory. We pray
Your Blessings upon all our efforts.
With the Saints as our example and guides,
help us to do the work You have asked
and come to the reward You have prepared.