LABOR DAY: WORK AND ITS PURPOSE

Today is May 1, celebrated as the Labor Day in the Philippines. We celebrate the contributions of our workers for their contribution on the economy.

Yes, our workers have been working so hard so that they can have a future and bring food to the table. But despite of this hardwork, our country’s workers have been suffering from different work-related problems such as low income, contractualization, greedy employers who are after their interests not on their employees’ welfare, poor condition of work place, etc.

The Filipino workers are hardworkers despite of the employment and work problems.

The Filipino workers are hardworkers despite of the employment and work problems.

And despite of the Philippines’ strong economic growth and investment grade, workers don’t feel the effect. Instead, unemployment rate in the country remains the highest in Southeast Asia despite of the economic growth with a high rating of 7.1% in January.

More and more Filipinos find it hard to land jobs. The government admits that it has not achieved that target of creating jobs and now hopes to create jobs through investments.

Because of this, we can see that more of them are looking for jobs overseas. It’s hard for them to leave their families but they have no choice. They need to work to earn for their family.

According to Ibon Foundation Executive Director, Sonny Africa, “the Philippines is facing its worst unemployment in its entire history. The reality is that the Philippines now has at least 4.5 million unemployed Filipinos, the real unemployment rate is closer to 11 per cent. We have a structural problem, the economy is not being designed to create jobs. They are focusing on low value added services, they are focusing on business process outsourcing, on tourism, on creative industries. These are not industries that would create jobs at home.”

Aside from unemployment, Filipino workers are unhappy about their low income with basic commodities rising up. And this Labor Day, there is no wage hike as a gift for them.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that “We are not expecting any wage increase announcement by May 1, Labor Day, for the minimum wage workers in Metro Manila because of the rule on the period of issuance of wage order.”

Kilusang Mayo Uno, citing the study of Ibon Foundation, said that the daily cost of living is a far cry from the minimum wage levels in the country.

Citing a study of independent think-tank Ibon Foundation early this year, the group said the daily cost of living pegged at P1,030 is a far cry from the minimum wage levels in the country.

Despite of these employment problems, workers still make it to go to work everyday to be able to feed their family. They remain strong.

From the book, COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, it said that “Work is a fundamental right and good for mankind, a useful good, worthy of man because it is an appropriate for him to give expression to and enhance his human dignity.”

Mr. Ramon CF Cuervo III (right) and his father, Ramon Cuervo Jr. (left) and their employees at  at Cuervo Appraisers Inc.

The father and son tandem in real estate appraisal and valuing together with their real estate appraisers at Cuervo Appraisers Inc.

Mr. Ramon CF Cuervo, a Real Estate Professional, shared to us the teachings of Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva to combine the day to day realities into opportunities to love God, serve others and practice the virtues was one of his teachings.

We read in his book, “Friends of God”, with the topic on working for God.  Professional work is a means for us to transform the daily realities into a supernatural adventure.

“My objective is to help workers on how they can improve their work, family life, and relations with others in the practice of virtues.” Mr. Cuervo, who is an Opus Dei member, said.

I’m sharing the contents of St. Josemaria Escriva’s book about working for God:

Many people begin, but few finish. And we, who are trying to behave as God’s children, have to be among those few. Remember that only work that is well done and lovingly completed deserves the praise of the Lord which is to be found in Holy Scripture: ‘better is the end of a task than its beginning’.

St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei and considered as a saint for all of us who works.

Many Christians are no longer convinced that the fullness of Life that God rightly expects from his children means that they have to have a careful concern for the quality of their everyday work, because it is this work, even in its most minor aspects, which they have to sanctify.

It is no good offering to God something that is less perfect than our poor human limitations permit. The work that we offer must be without blemish and it must be done as carefully as possible, even in its smallest details, for God will not accept shoddy workmanship. ‘Thou shalt not offer anything that is faulty,’ Holy Scripture warns us, ‘because it would not be worthy of him.’ For that reason, the work of each one of us, the activities that take up our time and energy, must be an offering worthy of our Creator. It must be operatio Dei, a work of God that is done for God: in short, a task that is complete and faultless.

We must be convinced therefore that work is a magnificent reality, and that it has been imposed on us as an inexorable law which, one way or another, binds everyone, even though some may try to seek exemption from it. Make no mistake about it. Man’s duty to work is not a consequence of original sin, nor is it just a discovery of modern times. It is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life’, for ‘man is born to work as the birds are born to fly’.

To this you might reply that many centuries have gone by and very few people think along these lines; that most people, when they work, do so for very different reasons: some for money, some to support their families, others to get on in society, to develop their capabilities, or perhaps to give free play to their disordered desires, or to contribute to social progress. In other words, most people regard their work as something that has to be done and cannot be avoided.

You must fight against the tendency to be too lenient with yourselves. Everyone has this difficulty. Be demanding with yourselves! Sometimes we worry too much about our health, or about getting enough rest. Certainly it is necessary to rest, because we have to tackle our work each day with renewed vigour. But, as I wrote many years ago, ‘to rest is not to do nothing. It is to turn our attention to other activities that require less effort.’

Let us ask Our Lord Jesus for light, and beg him to help us discover, at every moment, the divine meaning which transforms our professional work into the hinge on which our calling to sanctity rests and turns. In the Gospel you will find that Jesus was known as faber, filius Mariae, the workman, the son of Mary. Well, we too, with a holy pride, have to prove with deeds that we are workers, men and women who really work!

St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei and considered as a saint for all of us who works.

St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei and considered as a saint for all of us who works.

Since we should behave at all times as God’s envoys, we must be very much aware that we are not serving him loyally if we leave a job unfinished; if we don’t put as much effort and self-sacrifice as others do into the fulfillment of professional commitments; if we can be called careless, unreliable, frivolous, disorganised, lazy or useless… Because people who neglect obligations that seem less important will hardly succeed in other obligations that pertain to the spiritual life and are undoubtedly harder to fulfill. ‘He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much.’

To this I now add that your work too must become a personal prayer, that it must become a real conversation with Our Father in heaven. If you seek sanctity in and through your work, you will necessarily have to strive to turn it into personal prayer. You cannot allow your cares and concerns to become impersonal and routine, because if you were to do so, the divine incentive that inspires your daily tasks will straightaway wither and die.

Also in the book, COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, it taught us that Jesus is a man of work. In His preaching, Jesus teaches us that we should appreciate work. He, himself, having “become like us in all things, devoted most of the years of His life on earth to manual work at the carpenter’s bench.” He also worked tirelessly, accomplishing powerful deeds to free men and women from the sickness, suffering, and death.

But, in His preaching, Jesus teaches man to be enslaved by work. Before else, he must be concerned about his soul; gaining the whole world is not a purpose of his life.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Human work has a two-fold significance: objective and subjective. In the objective sense, it is the sum of activities, resources instruments and technologies used by men and women to produce things.

In the subjective sense, work is the activity of human person as a dynamic being capable of performing a variety of actions that are part of the work process and that correspond to his personal vocation: “Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the ‘image of God’, he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization. As a person, man is therefore the subject of work.”

Because a man works hard, he also needs time to rest. The book tells us that “Rest from work is a right” as God “rested on the seventh day from all the work in which He had done.” Sunday is a day that should be made holy by charitable activity, devoting time to family and relatives, as well as to the sick, the infirm and the elderly. Public authorities have the duty to ensure that, for reasons of economic productivity, citizens are not denied time for rest and divine worship.

In the book, 365 Days with the Lord, Bishop Teodoro Bacani explained that Jesus shows himself in the Gospel (Mark 6:30-34) to be very sensitive to the needs of his disciples and collaborators. Knowing how hard they have been working, and seeing that they need some respite from the people and from work, He tells them “Come by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People are not machines but human beings. People must work, but they also need to rest and to enjoy the company of their loved ones and friends.  If you have people working under your or with you, make sure that you do not run them like machines. People are fragile. Handle them with greatest care.

To all workers, remember that Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

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