Wednesday, September 06, 2006

22nd Wednesday in Ordinary Time (II)
Collaboration and Meaning

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-5; Psalm 32; Luke 4:38-44

There’s someone in the office who works overtime on a regular basis. Comes early and leaves late. His response to comments on his diligence? Better overtime than retrenchment. He speaks in jest, of course. Still it’s likely that many can identify with the anxiety hidden in his response. Do many not work hard because they fear being laid off?

Then there’s the younger person for whom the motivation for work is not so much fear of retrenchment as a desire for career advancement. The difficulty, however, is that this person’s ambitions for career success seem to her to conflict with her desires to live a devout Christian life. The result? An inability to find deeper meaning in work, tension, struggle, lack of peace.

Does work necessarily conflict with the things of God? Or is there perhaps some way in which the work we do everyday can somehow find deeper significance in our life in the Spirit? Our readings provide some guidance.

Consider the motivation that Paul expresses in the first reading. Faced with jealousy and wrangling in the Corinthian church, Paul responds by emphasizing that he and the other evangelists are fellow workers with God. What gives meaning to his work is the consciousness that he is not engaging in an exercise in self-aggrandizement but collaborating in a great divine construction project: building up God’s farm, God’s building.

And does not Jesus carry out his ministry with this same consciousness? Is this not why he is able to move on even when others press him to stay? In particular, we notice how he cultivates this consciousness through his practice of prayer in solitude. When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place.

Also, in the experience of Peter’s mother-in-law, we see one possible way in which this consciousness comes into being. After Jesus heals her she contributes in her own way to his ministry. She immediately got up and began to wait on them. In Christ, the mundane tasks of her daily existence take on a new significance. Like Paul, she becomes a collaborator in God’s building project.

What about us? How do we find meaning in our work?

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