Work with a Blessing!
“At that time…” Thus begins the Gospel, my beloved brethren. By means of these words we are called to think on that time when he to whom no one can compare – our Lord Jesus Christ – walked upon the face of the earth.
“At that time…” Some hear this and say, ‘If only I had lived in Christ’s era! If only I had seen him; if only I had heard him; if only I had partaken of the blessings he distributed!’ In the Church, however, we not only hear him, we not only see him with our spiritual eyes, but if we so desire we can even take hold of him and put him in our hearts by means of Holy Communion. On the diskos and in the chalice he is wholly present!
This same Christ loves work; he honours those who labour both on the land and at sea, and he has proven this with his whole life. When it came time to choose his disciples and apostles, he did not go to Plato’s Academy, or to the great centers of Rome, Alexandra, or Babylon where the powerful lived. Instead, he chose his ‘staff’ from the working class, from the fishermen of Galilee. The Lord is the archetypal worker. There is no one who loved workers more than our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the archetypal worker. He himself was a worker and all his disciples – Peter and Paul – were workers.
The first commandment given in Paradise was to work: ‘ἐργάζεσθαι’, ‘work’! And this is not just a commandment of God, a universal law, for humanity. Look around you! The ant works. Addressing the lazy person the Holy Scriptures say, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” Go to the ant and learn from its example. It lifts a load two-three times its own weight and carries this to its nest so that it will have food for the winter. The bee flies from flower to flower; birds travel miles upon miles, as do fish; rivers and streams run; the heavenly bodies are ceaselessly in motion. Everything, from the very small up to the very large, cries out, ‘Work!’ Those who will not work represent dissonance, a bad note, in the harmony of divine creation.
Today’s gospel passage tells us, however, that it is not enough for one to work. Something else is required. The first time the fishermen of Gennesaret lowered their nets they didn’t bring up even a single scale, but the second time their nets came up full. Why? Because the second time Christ himself was together with them and blessed their labours! Wherever Christ’s blessing is, there we will find a treasury of good things! So work, but do so with God’s blessing. People often strongly emphasize work, and they do well in so doing, but above work is God’s blessing.
Take the farmer as an example. Let him have the best field; let him cultivate it with great care and wisdom; let him fertilize the soil with the best fertilizer. If rain does not fall; if the sun does not shine; if the right breeze does not blow; if he does not have the blessing of heaven, then he will sow but not reap. All of his labours will be wasted.
You must have God’s blessing. If you do not have it, you will sow but not reap; you will build, but never live in what you have built; you will save up money, but never enjoy it. God’s blessing is a necessary condition of every success. Work, but do so in obedience to God. Just as Peter obeyed the Lord’s command, so ought we to do.
But what is God’s commandment with respect to work? “Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God” Work like ants for six days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – but on Sunday, rest! Do you hear the bells ring in the parish? Run to church! Work stops! Only necessary work which absolutely cannot cease may continue; this is permitted according to the spirit of the Gospel. But all others – except for the elderly and the infirm – to church!
My brothers and sisters, we have work, but we must have God’s blessing. A week has 168 hours. During this time we ought to do all that is needed for our life. God asks that we set aside but one hour to be in church, to pray and supplicate him. So, from now on, let us not be absent from church, all worshiping the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina