By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
To build and rebuild are so essential for us as we go about our daily lives, and especially for us as Christians working to further the Kingdom of God in our world, a Kingdom of truth and love, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. For many people as the extended gift of time of the Labor Day Weekend passed we found ourselves back into the rhythms of our daily lives, and ready or not, eager or resistant, life has a way of pulling and pushing us along. How creative is the concept that a long weekend at summer’s end, open to leisure and needed balance for our lives, gives us pause to reflect upon the dignity of work in all of its manifestations, the work of our hands, minds, hearts and spirit? The foundation of God’s Word is the work of creation, (six days) balanced by Sabbath rest (one day). The interplay of labor and rest in God produces much fruit as we fulfill our dignity and destiny as Imago Dei. Psalm 90, v. 17 asks God to bless the work of our hands so that we might indeed preserve the right order of things and further the work of creation. Work is good, and excerpts from the following poem “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy captures the wisdom of the ages begun in God.
“The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows….I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again…I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along…The work of the world is common as mud, botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident…The pitcher cries for water to carry, and a person for work that is real.”
One can feel the energy in this remarkable poem, and visualize the purposeful activity of which she speaks. We can extend these images to every corner of our lives, and easily to the rebuilding that is underway in Houston and Beaumont and in many communities in southeastern Texas after hurricane Harvey and in Florida and the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma. This work of recovery will continue for years and many will labor, from near and far, neighbors and friends, strangers and immigrants. What takes years to build can be torn down in moments by the destructive power of nature, or the evil intent of people. Night came and morning followed and thus we rebuild, because there is a higher power, and faith, hope and love will prevail. To sense this as we go about the endless tasks before us in our homes, schools and work places is a gift that motivates us, especially on those days when we would rather stay in bed.
On the day I write this, the 20th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa, we are reminded of the goodness, beauty and truth of her life, and the fundamental outlook of her faithful spirit i.e., “to make of one’s life something beautiful for God.”
Her enduring legacy embodies the wisdom found in the Gospel of John “the first work is to have faith in the one God sent, reminding us as disciples that the work of creation finds its fulfillment in God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The gift of faith, the size of a mustard seed, can indeed move mountains. (Luke 17,6) Consider the dawn of Mother Teresa’s altered mid-life journey of faith dedicated to the destitute and abandoned. She passed on the torch of educating the young and privileged of India’s middle and upper class and walked into Calcutta’s hell where many had lost hope and moved mountains. What a mustard seed!
This path of incredible faith, hope and love is not the birthright of a chosen few, but the Lord’s call in each of our lives. “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians 2,10) May the Lord the Lord bring about in each of us a wonderful harmony of faith and work so that we can make our lives something beautiful by developing our talents, serving others and giving God the glory.