Sunday, July 27, 2014

CHAPTER 48: Work and Prayer

     Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times.  At other times, they should read spiritual books.  If, however, the needs of the place, or poverty should require that they do the heavy labor themselves, let them not be upset by this, for that is when they are truly monks. However, on account of the weak, let all things be done with moderation.

     In his famous meditation on the nature of work, rock legend Todd Rundgren famously sang: “I don’t wanna work.  I just wanna bang on the drum all day.”  Of course, the irony underlying his lyrics is that in avoiding work, Lundgren wound up doing more work than he would at a regular job.  So the song provides us with a reflection on the consequences of the Fall of Adam, who never had to work in the garden of Eden but as a consequence of his sin, had to earn his bread “by the sweat of his brow” (Gen 3:19).[1]
But here’s the catch: Jesus worked too.  So work, which
Saint Benedict
was once a punishment, has become for all of us a sacred duty and a redemptive act.  By virtue of his hard work, the monk not only brings himself into closer conformity with Christ, he actually helps bring creation itself to perfection.  He completes God’s work!
Therefore work—whether it’s a chore, a homework assignment, a sports practice, or a job with an office and a paycheck—isn’t just a means of economic development.  Nor is it something to “be done with” so you can get on with your life.  It’s an essential part of your sanctification. 
John Paul II wrote, “It is through man's work that not only the fruits of our activity but also human dignity, brotherhood and freedom must increase on earth. Let the Christian who listens to the word of the living God, uniting work with prayer, know the place that his work has not only in earthly progress but also in the development of the Kingdom of God, to which we are all called through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the word of the Gospel” (Encyclical Laborem Exercens, par. 27).

[1] Randy Bachman reflected on a similar theme in the aptly titled “Taking Care of Business” when he sang “I like to work at nothing all day.”

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