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In the Heart of the Temple

Scripture is very clear about the place of work in human life. The Book of Genesis is explicit: we were put into the Garden “to till and to keep it.” We work to complete the work of God in the world. Work, then, may be the most sanctifying thing we do.

The implications of a spirituality of work in a world such as ours are clear, it seems. Work is my gift to the world. It is my social fruitfulness. It ties me to my neighbor and binds me to the future.

Work is the way I am saved from total self-centeredness. It gives me a reason to exist that is larger than myself. It makes me part of possibility. It gives me hope. Martin Luther wrote: “If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today.”

Work gives me a place in salvation. It helps redeem the world from sin. It enables creation to go on creating. It brings us all one step closer to what the reign of God is meant to be.

Work is meant to build community. When we work for others, we give ourselves and we can give alms as well. We never work, in other words, for our own good alone.

Work leads to self-fulfillment. It uses the gifts and talents we know we have and it calls on the gifts of which we are unaware.

Work is its own asceticism. When we face the work at hand, with all its difficulties and all its rigors and all its repetition and all its irritations and accept it, we do not need to traffic in symbolic penances. What today’s work brings is what is really due from me to God. And if we do it well, we will have spiritual discipline aplenty.

Finally, work is the way we really live in solidarity with the poor of the world. Work is our commitment not to live off others, not to sponge, not to shirk, not to cheat.

Work is our sign that God goes on working in the world through us. It is the very stuff of divine ambition. And it will never be over. The philosopher wrote, “Do you want a test to know if your work in life is over? If you are still alive, it isn’t.” God needs us to complete God’s work. Now.

-from In the Heart of the Temple by Joan Chittister (BlueBridge)