Work hard and worship well

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | November 10, 2016

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

Someone whom I know works at a bakery, very early in the morning, and can’t get to Sunday morning Masses. Sometimes, this person could get to a last Mass by leaving work early. But the person won’t, because they would have to go to church in work clothes.

“I smell of grease and have flour all over me. No one would want to sit near me.”

This week’s reading from Paul to the Thessalonians reminds us that Paul worked too. He makes no bones about it: “in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked.”

Paul was probably dirty; after all, he worked as a tentmaker. Hauling around heavy leather, lugging ropes and working with awls, he was probably filthy by day’s end.
Jesus was a carpenter. And he chose several fishermen — who no doubt smelled of fish — as his apostles.

This weekend, when you come to Mass, look around and see if anyone shows signs of their labor. Do dirty fingernails mean they work with machinery? Those who work on farms may have scuffed boots. People try to clean up before Mass, but some long-time grime just doesn’t come out easily.

These people help remind us that Sunday is a day of rest. During the week, we toil and labor like Paul.

When we work — and rest — we imitate God. Genesis tells us, “Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken” (2:2). Jesus reminded everyone — when he was criticized for healing a paralytic on the Sabbath — that “My Father is working still, and I am working” (Jn 5:17).

In his 1998 apostolic letter (Dies Domini) on keeping the Sabbath holy, St. John Paul II noted that “rest is something ‘sacred,’ because it is man’s way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God.”

As we observe the end of the growing season and nature prepares to rest for winter, remember that we are called to work and rest.

Take a moment to enjoy resting as you prepare to celebrate the Mass. Feel the pew support your back. Listen to the reflective music. Watch the candles flicker. Relax.

During Mass, enjoy the moments of “sacred silence” to just be still and listen to God.

And smile at others. It’s enjoyable to feel that you belong to a community of believers, who work hard and worship well: even if they have stained work clothes.

Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of multiple books.

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