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Work to Live…& Rest
Gospel Reflection for Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."
Today’s Gospel is a good reminder for all of us. The lot of mankind in earthly life is to toil. We must work to live. As Christians, we must also serve others. That is good. There is dignity in work. But, we must also take the time for prayer, to listen to God, to go to Holy Mass, to read the Bible and other Christian books. We also must take time for rest.
Our Lord said that He made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. The day of rest and worship is given to us because it is necessary for our wellbeing. Yes, we could spend our every waking moment working for our needs, for our families and in the service of God. But, God does not ask that of us. He commands us to observe the Sunday, which is the Christian Sabbath, and the Holy Days. On these days we are called to avoid unnecessary work and to attend Mass if possible. Through His Church, He also gives us many feast days which we should observe with joy. We should also celebrate weddings, births, birthdays, seasonal events such as the fall harvest and take time to respect and mourn for the dead.
It is very easy to get things out of balance. For instance, in Puritan New England, even necessary work was forbidden on Sunday. If you carried firewood in to heat your house, cooked or did anything visible to your neighbors you would likely be dragged out of your house, put in the stocks and beaten. In Jesus’ time, the religious officials insisted on strict observance to the Jewish Sabbath. Our Lord continually violated such regulations, showing us that His yoke was easier burden was indeed lighter than the Law.
That, of course, should not lead one to swing in the other direction. Recall that Saint Paul commanded that if a man would not work, he should not eat. Slothfulness is a sin. Government programs that relieve one of the necessity of work, by providing for their financial needs, have been disastrous. Even liberal Democrats such as Daniel Patrick Moynahan in the 1960s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s would admit that welfare and overly generous public assistance led to endemic poverty, illegitimacy, addiction, crime and despair. Apparently, that was a lesson too soon forgotten as those programs have been greatly expanded while crime and drug overdoses have continued to increase right along with them.
It is also a lesson that far too few “social justice” warriors in the Catholic Church understand. One can hardly blame so many priests and religious who do not understand economic realities. Many go from having everything paid for by their parents through college, directly into service in the Church. They never have to worry about housing, clothing, cars, food and other bills, or providing for a family. That is not a criticism, but an observation as their service is absolutely necessary. Most, however, certainly do not understand owning a business and all of the economic considerations that go into that. And frankly, college professors have it very easy once tenure is attained. Regardless, it is both a duty and a privilege to care only for the needs of others with no worries about one’s personal financial future.
This disconnect can lead to some very bad ideas that cause confusion. Our Lord did not degrade the value of Mary’s work in today’s gospel. But, as He explained to those who criticized the actions of His disciples, the Bridegroom was at hand. This was not the time to be concerned with anything unnecessary. It was a time to listen to Jesus, to learn and love. He also emphasized, such as when He washed the feet of the Apostles, the Christian is called to serve others. The farmer must plant and harvest, the cook must cook, the builder must build (etc.) and the priest must serve his role, all for the good of mankind and the building up of the Kingdom of God. Everything must be kept in perspective and moderation. Those who would relieve man of the burden of work are no more in the right than my Pilgrim/Puritan ancestors who outlawed celebrations of Christmas and Easter, condemning them as Catholic/pagan, blasphemous traditions.
Even our Lord often took time to find peace in nature for prayer and contemplation. While we must work, we should not neglect our religious duties or our needed times of rest and celebration. Sometimes we also need to turn off the phone and take a walk to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation so we can keep things in perspective and remember the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6:
“Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?”
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic