Labor was elevated to an act of love in the Holy Family.
While many of us try to avoid work at all costs, in the Holy Family, it was something that expressed love.
Too often our modern mindset is firmly fixed on the desire to eliminate work from our lives. Technology has only increased this desire, as we hope that the future will provide plenty of leisure, while robots do all the work.
Work in the life of the Holy Family
Yet, work is not meant to be absent from human life. In fact, work can be an “expression of love.”
This is how St. John Paul II explained work in his encyclical on St. Joseph, Redemptoris Custos.
Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth.
The Gospel specifies the kind of work Joseph did in order to support his family: he was a carpenter. This simple word sums up Joseph’s entire life. For Jesus, these were hidden years, the years to which Luke refers after recounting the episode that occurred in the Temple: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). This “submission” or obedience of Jesus in the house of Nazareth should be understood as a sharing in the work of Joseph. (22)
Jesus, being God himself, could have avoided work and simply snapped his fingers like Mary Poppins to complete tasks.
Work makes us more human
Instead, Jesus worked and sanctified his work, a sign that it is a pathway to being authentically human. This we see already in Eden, as Adam and Eve worked before Original Sin.
Human work, and especially manual labor, receive special prominence in the Gospel. Along with the humanity of the Son of God, work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has also been redeemed in a special way. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption.
In the human growth of Jesus “in wisdom, age and grace,” the virtue of industriousness played a notable role, since “work is a human good” which “transforms nature” and makes man “in a sense, more human.” (22-23)
When approaching work, we should look to the Holy Family for inspiration and recognize how it can make us holy.
Work takes on a new meaning when in this context and helps us to see it as a necessary part of human life, not something to be avoided, but to be embraced as an expression of love.