A Week of Catholicity II: The Sanctification of Work
Christians Carry out the Creation Mandate in Terms of the Great Commission.
This means that we "fill the earth and subdue it"... with converted disciples. This means that we "take dominion"... only in the name of the Lord who suffered for His enemy and gives Himself in love and service for His people. This means that every action, of every day, can be a small enactment of His renewal and redemption, and a small version of eucharist that returns His gifts to Him in thanksgiving. This means that everyone has a ministry; that every workday is a day of vocation. The sweat of our brow has meaning in the light of Christ; within our work, we go into all the world and make disciples.
"Service to neighbour" was the way Luther linked daily life and work with Christian vocation. John Calvin emphasised the fact that God intends Christians to work "for mutual service," in light of the riches of diverse gifts and in light of social inter dependence: "all the gifts we possess have been bestowed by God and entrusted to us on condition that they be distributed for our neighbour's benefit," such that Christians were to so actively seek to use their talents and abilities to serve their neighbour as to change their station in life to make such service possible.
For the Christian, work does not have its meaning in paid employment or in occupations carried on for financial gain or profit; rather, work becomes another gracious vehicle for the vocation of honoring God and extending His love among His people.
John Paul II expressed the Christian theology of work beautifully. Naming humanity as sharers in the image of the Creator, he calls us "God's fellow artists," who, through our own creative work, offer gifts to the world: "the opening page of the Bible presents God as a kind of exemplar of everyone who produces a work- the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator...as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life. In a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece." (More of the same in John Paul's Letter to Artists, here)
...And in the words of those working saints of Opus Dei, "God is not removing you from your environment. He is not taking you away from the world, nor from your condition in life, nor from your noble human endeavors, nor from your profession. For He wants you to be a saint- right there."
Christ qualifies Genesis for us with even greater clarity: we are to let our work make masterpieces of us, refining us with patience and courage. In our work and the fellowship it engenders, we are to make masterpieces of one another. In Christ, there is no mere labor; the tilling of the cursed Garden has become the exciting and sanctifying pilgrimmage into all the ends of the earth. Go there, in your daily work, and make disciples.
1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord....2 Corinthians 6:1: We then, as workers together with Christ, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain...Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
- and speaking of beautiful work, check out what Vocatum contributor Garland has been up to in his line of work...