Lord, give success to work of our hands
The Jubilee of Workers was celebrated on 30 April-l May with the
theme: "Work for All: Paths of Solidarity and Justice".
The celebration began on the evening of 30 April with a prayer
service led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini at the Basilica of St John
Lateran. The following morning over 200,000 working men and women
gathered on the grounds of the University of Rome Tor Vergata for
Mass celebrated by the Holy Father. The liturgy was followed by the
Pope's greetings to the world of work and by musical pieces
performed by Andrea Bocelli, accompanied by the chorus and orchestra
of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. In the evening a pop concert was
held for reducing the external debt of poor countries. During the
Eucharistic liturgy the Holy Father preached the following homily in
Italian. Here is a translation.
1. "Lord, give success to the work of our hands"
These words we repeated in the Responsorial Psalm clearly express
the meaning of today's Jubilee. Today, 1 May, a united prayer rises
from the vast and multifaceted world of work: Lord, bless us and
strengthen the work of our hands!
Our labours—at home, in the
fields, in industries and in offices—could
turn into an exhausting busyness ultimately devoid of meaning (cf.
Eccl 1:3). Let us ask the Lord for it to be the fulfilment of his
plan, so that our work may recover its original meaning.
And what is the original meaning of work? We have heard it in the
first reading from the Book of Genesis. God gave man, created in his
image and likeness, a command: "Fill the earth and subdue it' (Gn
1:28). The Apostle Paul echoes these words when he writes to the
Christians of Thessalonica: "When we were with you, we gave you
this command: If any one will not work let him not eat", and
exhorts them "to do their work in quietness and to earn their
own living" (2 Thes 3:10, 12).
In God's plan, work is therefore seen as a right and duty.
Necessary to make the earth's resources benefit the life of each
person and of society, it helps to direct human activity towards God
in the fulfilment of his command to "subdue the earth". In
this regard another of the Apostle's exhortations echoes in our
souls: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do
all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).
Christ has appreciation and respect for human work
2. While the Jubilee year turns our gaze to the mystery of the
Incarnation, it invites us to reflect with particular intensity on
the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth. It was there that he spent
most of his earthly life. With his silent diligence in Joseph's
workshop, Jesus gave the highest proof of the dignity of work.
Today's Gospel mentions how the residents of Nazareth, his fellow
villagers, welcomed him with surprise, asking one another:
"Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is
not this the carpenter's son?" (Mt 13:54-55).
The Son of God did not disdain being called a
"carpenter" and did not want to be spared the normal
condition of every human being. "The eloquence of the life of
Christ is unequivocal: he belongs to the 'working world', he has
appreciation and respect for human work. It can indeed be said that
he looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it
takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man's
likeness with God, the Creator and Father" (Encyclical Laborem
exercens, n. 26).
The teaching of the Apostles and of the Church derives from
Christ's Gospel; a true and proper Christian spirituality of work
flows from it and was eminently expressed in the Second Vatican
Ecumenical Council's Constitution Gaudium et spes (nn. 33-39
and 63-72). After centuries of heated social and ideological
tensions, the contemporary world, evermore interdependent, needs
this "Gospel of work" so that human activity can
promote the authentic development of individuals and of all
3. Dear brothers and sisters who today represent this entire
working world gathered for this Jubilee celebration, what does the
Jubilee say to you? What does the Jubilee say to society, for which
work is not only a fundamental structure but also a proving ground
for its choices of value and culture?
Since its Hebrew origins, the Jubilee has directly concerned
the reality of work, since the People of God were a people of
free men and women redeemed by the Lord from their condition as
slaves (cf. Lv 25). In the paschal mystery Christ also brings to
fulfilment this institution of the old law, giving it full spiritual
meaning but integrating its social dimension into the great plan of
the kingdom, which, like "leaven", causes the whole of
society to make true progress.
Therefore the Jubilee Year calls for a rediscovery of the
meaning and value of work. It is also an invitation to address
the economic and social imbalances in the world of work by
re-establishing the right hierarchy of values, giving priority to
the dignity of working men and women and to their freedom,
responsibility and participation. It also spurs us to redress
situations of injustice by safeguarding each people's culture and
different models of development.
At this moment I cannot fail to express my solidarity with all
who are suffering because of unemployment, inadequate wages or lack
of material resources. I am well aware of the peoples who are
reduced to a poverty that offends their dignity, prevents them from
sharing the earth's goods and obliges them to eat whatever scraps
fall from the tables of the rich (cf. Incarnationis mysterium,
n. 12). The effort to remedy these situations is a labour of justice
Fulfilling God's will is true source of blessing
The new realities that are having such a powerful impact on the
productive process, such as the globalization of finance, economics,
trade and labour, must never violate the dignity and centrality of
the human person, nor the freedom and democracy of peoples. If
solidarity, participation and the possibility to manage these
radical changes are not the solution, they are certainly the
necessary ethical guarantee so that individuals and peoples do not
become tools but the protagonists of their future. All this can be
achieved and, since it is possible, it becomes a duty.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is reflecting on
these themes and is closely following developments in the world's
economic and social situation, in order to study their effects on
the human being. The result of this reflection will be the Compendium
of the Social Teaching of the Church, which is now being
4. Dear workers, our meeting is illumined by the figure of
Joseph of Nazareth and by his spiritual and moral stature, as
lofty as it is humble and discreet. The promise of the Psalm is
fulfilled in him: "Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who
walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your
hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.... Thus
shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord" (127:1-2, 4). The
Guardian of the Redeemer taught Jesus the carpenter's trade, but
above all he set him the most valuable example of what Scripture
calls the "fear of God", the very beginning of wisdom,
which consists in religious submission to him and in the deep desire
to seek and always carry out his will. This, dear friends, is the
true source of blessing for every person, for every family and for
I entrust all of you, your Jubilee and your families to St
Joseph, a worker and just man, and to his most holy wife, Mary.
"Lord, give success to the work of our hands".
Bless, 0 Lord of the centuries and the millennia, the daily work
by which men and women provide bread for themselves and their loved
ones. We also offer to your fatherly hands the toil and sacrifices
associated with work, in union with your Son Jesus Christ, who
redeemed human work from the yoke of sin and restored it to its
To you be praise and glory today and for ever. Amen.