Don Bosco Philippines South Province

Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippine South Province FIS

The Dignity of Human Work

“It is an honor for the Congregation if a Salesian dies with his work boots on,” St. John Bosco is often quoted as saying. My fifteen years of Salesian formation in the seminaries and houses that I have been in have always placed emphasis on the importance of manual work. While I was in high school in DBTC, our older peers have told us, “a Bosconian is never afraid to get his hands dirty.” This culture that honors and values manual work has taught me the hidden gems that come with sweat and physical fatigue.

This memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, also our national Labor Day, is given to us to rest in order to ponder the value of human work. Even the readings of today’s mass contribute to this effort as the first reading from Genesis reminds us that God, in the beginning, was at work in creation. He continues to work even today. His power is seen working in nature and in human hands.
While our culture today exalts convenience and efficiency in our unrelenting quest for comfort and time, the Church invites us to see in human work that struggles and takes time, the human reflection of God’s creative power. Work gives humanity its dignity as it is the expression of his ingenuity, creativity, and fruitfulness. It is the expression of human power and sovereignty given him by God, to cultivate the earth and so enjoy its fruits. Workaholics enjoy the thrill of being productive. Retirees struggle with the prospect of being less productive. The young have to deal with the pressure and expectation of being productive. But it is not the fruits of our labor that really matters but the love with which we infuse our labor. Love empowers and directs work. Without love, all work becomes tasteless and useless labor. It was by love that God created everything.
We remember today the issues that hound our workers, especially the blue collar workers and the rank and file, who silently grind the hours away for the sake of providing for their families. While many are not living their dream jobs today, they are enlivening their dreams for family through work that not many want to undertake. It is with special concern that the Church continues to commiserate with those who suffer injustice and abuse, as she challenges governments and corporations towards social justice. Human society should not be carried by the shoulders of slaves and victims. Our society could only be human when we treat everyone, especially our workers, humanely and with dignity.
It is with hope that I call out my brother Salesians, religious, and clerics, to examine how we treat our lay mission partners, our scholars and recipients of our ministry, whether we teach them the value of human work through our example of industry and whether we give them the dignity and justice that is inherently theirs.
Jesus was fully human not just because He came from Mary’s womb but also because He was taken in by Joseph’s house and possibly learned the trade in Joseph’s workshop. If Jesus endured the rigors of working for the Kingdom, it was because Joseph handed on to him the manliness capable of building God’s house. May we follow in their footsteps and not shy away from our share of tasks and responsibilities in building the Kingdom and Family of God.


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