Finding sacredness in the work

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | January 19, 2017

It is said that teaching, farming and healing are the three sacred professions. Certainly, teaching is much in the news these days. Just listen to any political talk show and you’re likely to hear some lively debate on teachers’ salaries, teachers’ unions, public vs. private schools and more about education. Mary is a teacher. If Jesus walked into her school today and asked her to drop everything and follow him, should she do it?

Or what about farming? Frank is a dairy farmer. It’s hard work with little time off and mega-farms closing in on all sides. If Jesus walked into the cow barn and asked Frank to come with him, what should Frank do?

Meghan is a doctor. The cost of medical malpractice insurance for a single practitioner recently forced her to leave private practice in the town where she grew up and accept an offer from a hospital in another part of the country. If Jesus asked Meghan to follow him, how should she respond?

Should Mary, Frank and Meghan leave their work to follow Jesus? Matthew (4:12-23) tells us that Jesus asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their work as fishermen and “Come after [him] …” and that they “… immediately … left their boat and their father and followed him.” But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus didn’t ask them to leave their work forever. He promised that if they left their work, he would show them new ways to work. Could it be that the invitation is not so much about leaving the work behind as it is about finding the sacredness in the work? Think about it. If Peter, Andrew, James and John were going to end up as fishermen anyway, what purpose was there in leaving their work in the first place? Unless, of course, the idea was to learn to fish (or teach, farm or heal) differently.

Do we believe that the work we do is sacred? If Jesus walked into our workplace and invited us to come after him, are there nets we would need to untangle? Boats we would need to leave behind?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.

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