We were made to thrive

“If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

                                                                                                           – Marc Anthony

I’m sure the thought of not having to work has been enticing to most of us at least at one point of our lives. We probably dreamt of the things we would or could do – travel the world, pursue a passion, learn a new skill, etc. With the presence of social media “Influencers”, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine how easy and carefree our lives could be if we never had to work.

I used to have mixed feelings about this idea of “not having to work” because I genuinely love what I do and I work in healthcare where the “work” in itself is already meaningful. Despite that, there have been times when I played with the idea of what my life would be like if I could spend at least a year or two traveling the world and exploring. After all, St Augustine himself said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”.

But as much as I would love to travel, there is another part of me that feels that I might find this idleness less meaningful and I’m not quite sure if I will truly be happy with that kind of life. “So what does our faith say with regards to “work”? What is the relation between work and our faith? Is there even a relation to begin with?”

Last Saturday, a number of us attended a talk by Father David Garcia about “Spirituality at Work” which addressed some of these questions and perspectives. To be honest, Father Garcia didn’t give us all the answers. Instead, he shared his perspectives and posed the question back to us on how we can integrate our faith into our “work” and more importantly our lives.

Whatever stage of life we are at, I’m sure the main struggle of being a Catholic is truly in the being – living out our faith in our daily lives in AND out of Church, in the everyday things and encounters. It just so happens for any working individual, a large majority of our time is spent at the workplace.

So what is “Work”?

Immediately, what comes to mind would be our jobs and our activities. But did you know that in 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical on the issues on Human Labour entitled “Laborem Exercens (On Human Labour)”? Essentially, we are challenged to broaden our perspective to view “Work” as what we do with what He has entrusted to our care, just like Adam and Eve.

“God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.”

(Genesis 2:15)

In their case, they were given the Garden of Eden but if we look at the bigger picture, God calls us to cultivate and look after our environment, our personal relationships, our talents, our bodies and ultimately our lives!

If we look back at the beginning in the Book of Genesis, even God worked. Since we are made in His image and we are called to be like Him, we too are called to carry on His work of building His kingdom not just by words but also by action, by using what He has given us and making them and the world better.

Work vs Toil

If we are made to work, then why is it so hard? This is because many of us mistake work for toil and this is one of the key messages that I took away from the talk.

Toil is the result of Man’s sin, not work. We were made to work because work give us meaning and purpose, but toil makes the work we do hard. So, if we are able to find meaning in what we do (be it work or our personal relationships), if we see how our small actions can have a greater impact on the people and the world around us, that’s when we can focus on the work and not the toil.

What is meaningful work?

How then do we find meaning in our work? Is it about the work we do or is it knowing how we fit into the bigger picture? Perhaps this little story will shed some light:

“President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

Likewise, not everyone is called to be an astronaut. We are all blessed with different gifts and talents and if we all have the perspective of the janitor and see the value in what we have to offer, that makes all the difference.

Just like we have a duty to work, we also have a duty to rest.

I suppose being Asians, we are no strangers to working late in the office. I, for one, am guilty of this, especially in my line of work where we are working for “the greater good”. I always had the mind-set that because I deal with people’s lives, skipping lunch and staying back late is a small sacrifice.

But through the talk, Father brought up the example of how even God rested on the 7th day, He rested with the intention of working again the next day; and it is precisely because the work is so important that we need to ensure that we are well rested so that we can do our work well!

It is in recreation that we can re-create and renew ourselves so that we can be better. And if you think about it, if we are called to take care of what God has given us, then we too have a duty to take care of our bodies, our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being!

So perhaps Marc Anthony was right, perhaps what he meant was that,

”If you find meaning in what you do, you’ll never have to toil meaninglessly a day in your life.”

If you think about it, whether or not you toil, how “hard” we perceive the work to be is really about perspective. It is about how we approach the “work” (be it in our jobs or other responsibilities) and whether we are able to find the meaning in it, whether it has a greater positive impact on the people and the world around us.

And instead of looking upon the instagram feed of famous influencers with longing and envy, maybe we can think about how we can be the influencer for our current lifestyle – the lifestyle of what it means to be a daily Catholic and the true joy that brings, the knowing that we are made for so much more, that we are made to be more.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

For those of us who are at crossroads, discerning about our current career or vocation, I shall leave you with the 3 questions Father Garcia shared with us:

  1. Does it (directly/indirectly) contribute to the common good?
  2. Does it make you a better person?
  3. Does it make your personal relationships better?
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