Mike Aquilina of The Way of the Fathers has an excellent reminder concerning the consistent Christian respect for the dignity of work -- an important thing to remember and think about on this Labor Day.
Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, wrote in his encyclical on the dignity of Human Work, Laborem Exercens (emphasis mine):
The Church is convinced that work is a fundamental dimension of man's existence on earth. She is confirmed in this conviction by considering the whole heritage of the many sciences devoted to man: anthropology, palaeontology, history, sociology, psychology and so on; they all seem to bear witness to this reality in an irrefutable way. But the source of the Church's conviction is above all the revealed word of God, and therefore what is a conviction of the intellect is also a conviction of faith.The pope goes on to discuss the formation of a spirituality of work:
At the same time she sees it as her particular duty to form a spirituality of work which will help all people to come closer, through work, to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to participate in his salvific plan for man and the world and to deepen their friendship with Christ in their lives by accepting, through faith, a living participation in his threefold mission as Priest, Prophet and King...Of course, this notion is nothing new to the Gospel, but it is a message that our present world desperately needs to hear. This is particularly why the Second Vatican Council gave such importance to the subject in its pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes. The pope goes on to echo this document:
Awareness that man's work is a participation in God's activity ought to permeate, as the Council teaches, even "the most ordinary everyday activities. For, while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labour they are unfolding the Creator's work, consulting the advantages of their brothers and sisters, and contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan".Do we approach our work in this way? It is a challenge, certainly. This very understanding of the sanctification of work, the ordinary work of life, as a means of encountering God is central to the teachings of Opus Dei, underscored by the Second Vatican Council: Be a saint through your work and further the Work of God. Take a moment today to read the encyclical and meditate on its message concerning the dignity and indeed the spirituality of human work.
This Christian spirituality of work should be a heritage shared by all. Especially in the modern age, the spirituality of work should show the maturity called for by the tensions and restlessness of mind and heart. "Far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's greatness and the flowering of his own mysterious design. For the greater man's power becomes, the farther his individual and community responsibility extends. ... People are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows. They are, rather, more stringently bound to do these very things".
The knowledge that by means of work man shares in the work of creation constitutes the most profound motive for undertaking it in various sectors.