At this stage of my youth, my heart grows restless at the thought of the mundane working life that approaches me. In my head, I would envision stepping into the working world as being parallel to running a long marathon race, a race with an unknown yet daunting distance to be covered. The finishing line of the race would be my retirement when either I have earned enough to support my retirement lifestyle or just the sad reality of me not being able to work due to physiological deterioration. The adoption of such a mindset made me devalue the beauty of work and the wonder of God’s love within it. It is only through my RCIA lessons, when we went through the document “Caritas in Veritate”, that I realised the flaw in my perception of what work is.
The secular perspective of work is that it constitutes activities where we put in the effort to accomplish a result, which usually refers to academic results or financial gains for our human livelihood. Work seems to serve as an avenue that funds the lifestyle that we are pursuing with the monetary gains and our status in the society. This cultivates an attitude of competitiveness in the work and school environment, leaving little room for compassion that preserves our human dignity.
What is the true essence of work as envisioned by God our Father? It is actually a process where we recreate ourselves using the charisms that God has given us so that we can become more of who He created us to be, which is the intrinsic value of work. In attempting to be more formed as the person whom we are created to be, we are using work as an avenue for the expression of our human dignity. However, there are instances where we disregard this dignity by leading a compartmentalised life where we embrace different identities at work/school and home, just to be accepted by others. “Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values”. Caritas in Veritate presents that without awareness of the truth that we are loved and created in the image of God, we might fall into the trap of adopting an empirical view of life where we just accept the reality the world presents us with, losing sight of the intrinsic value of things in life, such as work.
It is undeniably challenging to recreate ourselves to be more of who He created us to be through work especially when our work environment is toxic or the nature of our work does not coincide with our charisms. “The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with Him in the building of the civilisation of love.” St John Paul II encourages us by showing his understanding of the struggles that we had to face and reminded us of the great honour that was given to us to be God’s little instrument to build the kingdom of love on Earth. As a start, we can attempt to align ourselves and our environment with God which gradually enables us to incarnate His spirit in the world, to make the world a little closer to how He would have envisioned it.