SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
September 3, 2012
We are all to be God's co-creators; yet it is clear that some creative efforts are so much better paid than others. There are creative people who are starving in many parts of the world. How can we see the work of providence in this?
Yes, we were made to be co-creators with God. God created Adam and Eve and entrusted the earth to their care. After the fall, work became burdensome but humanity was expected to continue to care for the earth and develop it.
However, work can be a joy when we know that we are working with God to develop and improve people's lives on this earth.
It's true but rather strange that "creative" people are often poorly paid. After all, these creative, artistic individuals give beauty and quality to our lives.
They provide some of the most enjoyable moments of life which touch the soul and elevate our minds above life's hardships. They bring us to experience something of the mystical, of God.
Some have reported strong palpitations of the heart and an almost-fainting experience with the beauty of it all. There's even a name for this, the Stendhal syndrome, after the writer who first reported it upon his view of the extraordinary art in the city of Florence.
Just think of the inspiring music we can listen to, the magnificent art and architecture that we travel the world to see, the great books we read and the gripping drama we can witness. Without these, we all would be much poorer, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually.
Creative artists are not the only ones who struggle. Ordinary working people often are underpaid for their work even though it is essential to the functioning of society. Many struggle to provide a decent livelihood for their families.
How do we account for this? Does God favour the few who head big corporations and earn millions while their contemporaries almost starve? God has given humans free will and it is humans who create this inequality.
Obviously, greed and hunger for power are at the root of injustice facilitated in corporations and individuals by the culture of modern society. Those who are given enormous wages or those whose riches are obtained fraudulently live luxurious lifestyles.
It makes one wonder how much greed and power have influenced the present financial crisis in so many countries and the suffering of many.
The Church has long advocated for social justice. Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum intended to address the inhumane conditions created by the Industrial Revolution stressed the need for just wages.
On its 40th anniversary, Pius XI's 1931 encyclical confirmed and elaborated on that of Leo XIII. This was followed 40 years later by Paul VI's apostolic letter on social justice.
Pope John Paul II's encyclical On Human Work appeared on the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. He speaks of our co-creation with God and the need for just wages.
Does Jesus want us to suffer, to be deprived, hungry, lacking decent shelter? Suffering is a part of human condition but in itself it is not a good thing, as shown by Jesus' reaction to the suffering around him. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, he comforted the afflicted, he raised the dead.
He never told anyone they should continue suffering, that it was good for them. On the contrary, he did everything to combat suffering for others, even though he knew that he himself was to endure the greatest suffering and death.
Throughout the Gospels, we hear that God takes care of us even more so than of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Jesus said "My Father is still working and I also am working" (John 5.17).
What is God working at? Giving us what we need to better our lives and the world around us and bring us to eternal life. Religious orders of women and men were founded to care for the sick and the needy, as well as raise the level of society by education. There was a realization that all that we do feeds both body and soul. Work is a profound spiritual activity and is closely connected to our spiritual lives.
On a practical level, every one of us needs to work for social justice in whatever our individual circumstances allow, for ourselves and for others. We need to be informed and pray for all those suffering from injustice because of low wages or lack of employment.
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