19 on the 19th – St. Joseph and the Sanctification of Work

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Thanks for joining us for this special Year of St. Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio: 19 on the 19th, a 19-minute talk on St. Joseph on the 19th of the month, the day dedicated to St. Joseph.

Hi, this is Cale Clarke, host of The Faith Explained program and The Cale Clarke Show on Relevant Radio. So glad to be with you for this latest installment of the 19 on the 19th series of talks for this year, dedicated to St. Joseph.

Let’s pray together as we begin. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, when it comes to renewing the face of the earth, one of the truths that we believe about the salvation the Lord Jesus Christ offers us is that He’s known as the second Adam, with of course Mary being the new Eve. We have kind of a salvation team if you will, and he wants to make it possible for us to respond to God the way that our first parents, Adam and Eve did before The Fall, before sin infected the world.

So the second Adam, Jesus, wants to get us back to where the first Adam was in the beginning. One of the truths about creation that people often miss is that the Bible’s description of life in the Garden of Eden before The Fall, pre-sin, presents to us a theology of work. Now, St. Joseph, one of the titles that he’s known by is St. Joseph the Worker. There’s a feast day dedicated to him under this title on May the first. Now St. Joseph is often known as the Carpenter.

But actually, that Greek word in the gospel that describes his work is the word tekton. And that can cover a wide range of activities, everything from designing to working with all kinds of material like wood and even stone. You could say that Joseph might have been something like a modern day architect or even an engineer. Now St. Joseph is never quoted as saying anything in the Bible. He is a silent knight with a “k”. And a holy knight with a “k”. But his holiness speaks very loud and clear, especially through his work.

Now, this theology of work is something that really can’t be overemphasized enough, because the general public, even if they are Christians and even if they are Catholics, are under the impression that work is a punishment for sin. But you and I know better. We know that’s not true, because in the Book of Genesis we read that work existed in the world before sin entered the world and that work is a good gift of God.

And back to that first Adam, what was his job? He did have a job. God gave him a job and it was given to Adam to till and to keep the garden. We read this in Genesis chapter 2, verse 15. That was his job. Those Hebrew verbs “to till” and “to keep.” Now, one of the truths that we’ve got to recover is the truth that any type of work, no matter what it is, as long as it’s honest work can be sanctified. It can be made holy. Not only can the work be made holy, but we can be made holy through the work and we can help make other people holy through that. This is the arena where we encounter God.

So I think we need to do away with the expression “secular job” or “secular vocation.” The truth of the matter is that any honest profession or work can be made holy and can be a place where we can find God.

Did you know that those two terms which we translated into English as “to till” and “to keep” (the garden) are the exact same words that the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, uses to speak about the work of the priests in the tabernacle and later on in the Temple of Israel and Jerusalem? It’s interesting as well that in the Garden of Eden narrative in the Book of Genesis, it also mentions some interesting items being there: gold, something called the bdellium, and onyx.

Now gold and onyx you’ve heard of. But what about the bdellium?

Well, all three of those items are actually found later on in the Old Testament on the garments of the high priest, and also in the furnishings of the temple before that in the Tabernacle. Now, don’t forget, the tabernacle was kind of a mobile version of the temple. Onyx and bdellium were found on the vestments of the high priest. And so, when you add it all up, the verbs “till,” “keep,” the items Onyx, gold, bdellium, what’s going on here? In the Book of Genesis, the writer is almost shouting in our ears that Adam is being presented as a priest-king over all creation. That’s part of his work.

Now obviously in the New Testament time, when you think about Christian Baptism, we know that we share in the threefold offices of Christ by virtue of our baptism. Christ was priest, prophet, and king. So we share in those offices when we’re baptized into Christ in the church. So, if you’re a Catholic lady listening to the show, you can actually say that the Catholic Church does kind of have women priests, because you share in Christ Priestly office by your Baptism.

A little Catholic humor there. Very little. But in the Old Testament only the Levite’s fulfilled the priestly function in ancient Israel. The tribe of Levi was given that charge. Before the Levite’s got started, every Israelite male was, as the head of the household, a priest, and before that, Adam himself, the first man, was priest-king over all creation. So, this is probably a good time to ask, “What do priests actually do?”

Well, priests really do three things when you boil it down. They sanctify things and people, they make them holy. They make offerings to God. They also help bring others to God.

That’s why one of the great titles of the Pope, the Holy Father, is Pontifex. I’m sure you’ve seen that word. Well, the word Pontifex means “bridge-builder.” He tries to build a bridge just as every priest does, from humanity to God. And this is what Jesus did as our great high priest. He built that bridge called the Cross, to bring people to God.

It’s a beautiful image. And there’s another image that you need to get in your mind when it comes to how to look at our work the right way, the way that St. Joseph did, St. Joseph the Worker.

It’s the image of the sacred compass. This takes us back to God’s original plan. Imagine if you will, in your mind’s eye, a bullseye. Imagine a series of concentric circles, expanding ever outward from the center, just like you might throw a stone in a lake, circles rippling out wider and wider, greater and greater ever outwards. Think about this image.

Think about the bullseye on the dartboard, that small target circle in the middle. Now that’s what we would call that little circle in the middle, the most holy place.

Thinking about the Garden of Eden, you might know that when the Israelites built the Tabernacle, this mobile temple, and when they eventually built the Permanent Temple in Jerusalem, guess what? They constructed it using the Garden of Eden as a model. God’s original intent.

So, what they wanted to do was take this with them until they arrived at the final destination of the Promised Land.

They wanted the original Garden of Eden to go with them on their journey, and eventually we all get to the new Garden of Eden, the new heavens, the new Earth. It’s going to be exciting. So when you think about the Garden of Eden, what was in the very middle?

The very presence of God.

And that’s what was known in the Tabernacle as the most holy place. Think about the Ark of the Covenant with the Golden Wings of the Cherubim, the very presence of God overtop the mercy seat, as it was known.

That was in the most holy place. Now the next circle right around that, stepping one level out, that’s the antechamber. So this would be the garden part of the Garden of Eden. That’s why the Tabernacle was filled with garden imagery.

When they constructed it, that’s why they had things like the menorah, you know, the seven branched Candelabra. That’s supposed to represent a tree, The Tree of Life.

So, let’s move outwards one more step, one more circle. This is the courtyard area. You see we’re moving out from the very center, outwards. So the next step out is the courtyard area.

Now people were only allowed here when they were making sacrifices, when they were bringing sacrifices to God. Now think about all the sacrifices that happened at that level of the Tabernacle surrounding the most holy place, and the same was true in the temple in Jerusalem. Now the next circle outside of that, let’s step out even further. Let’s go outwards one more.

This is called “the camp.”

Now that was the general place where the Israelites lived. They camped out, pitched their tents as they were moving along on their wilderness journey with the Tabernacle.

Now what’s outside of that? What’s the next circle outside? Well, that is literally “outside the camp.” Everything and everyone, all the other groups that were out there were outside the camp.

So the idea is the further you get away from the center, the further you get away from the most holy place, the further you get away from the very presence of God, the further you get away from holiness.

So that’s the model. That’s what was known as the Sacred Compass, the temple, the tabernacle modeled after the Garden of Eden. This is why it’s so important to understand.

And this is something that almost everybody misses. It is so important that the gospel notes what happened at the very moment Jesus died on the cross.

And where did he die on the cross? Well, the letter to the Hebrews puts it this way. He died outside the camp.

Now in Mark chapter 15, verse 38, we read these words that at the moment Jesus dies and gives up His spirit, the curtain of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom.

This is the very curtain that separated the most holy place in the temple from everywhere else. Let me just read this passage to you from Mark Chapter 15.

It says, “When the 6th hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the 9th hour and at the 9th Hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani,’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’ And some of the bystanders hearing it said, ‘Behold, He is calling Elijah,’ and one ran and filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait. Let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down,’ and Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and when the Centurion who stood facing him saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God.’”

So what does all this mean? Well, a couple of things.

First, it means that God did this. The temple curtain was absolutely huge. It was so tall that nobody could reach it standing on the ground, but yet it is torn in two from top to bottom. That means that only God could have done such a thing. It also means that the very presence of God is on the loose in the world now. It’s everywhere and it’s anywhere. No longer is it the case that the further you get away from the temple, the further you are away from God’s holy presence. It means that you can encounter God anywhere in the world.

This reminds me a lot about the conversation that Jesus has with the woman at the well in John chapter 4. Of course, you remember that one. And Jesus says this as part of the conversation. He says, “Go call your husband and come back,” and the woman says, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “’You are right in saying ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. This you said truly.’” Now little does she know that Jesus is the divine bridegroom and the Church is his bride, so Jesus is the new Adam.

Here this woman has been so unfortunate in love, but the divine bridegroom, the lover of her soul, is now there. So, more marriage imagery from the Garden of Eden.

And then the woman says to him, this, “’Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet,’” kind of trying to change the subject I think. “’Our father is worshipped on this mountain and yet you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews, but the hour is coming and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For such, the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, I know that the Messiah is coming, He who is called Christ. When He comes, He will show us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

Wow, just a powerful passage. And I’m not even going to get into the fact that they’re at the well and it was thought that streams of living water would also pour out of the temple in Jerusalem. We see this in the book of Ezekiel and out of the heart of Christ, of course, comes streams of living water, the Holy Spirit.

The point of this is it doesn’t matter whether you’re on this mountain, or in Jerusalem as they were talking about. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, God is everywhere. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can encounter him in your life or in your work. You can sanctify your work.

As St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, talked about, any honest job can be sanctified.

You can sanctify your work, you can sanctify yourself in your work and you can sanctify others through your work. And a big part of this is realizing God is with you in your work.

So the locus of sacrifice, the place of sacrifice is no longer on the altar in the temple in Jerusalem. It’s wherever you happen to be.

St. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 12, verses one and two. He says, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

You know there are a lot of people out there in this world who are saying things like, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual. I don’t need organized religion like the Catholic Church because I’m just naturally a spiritual person.” Now, this is pure nonsense. If you’re wondering what true spirituality really is, look no further than the text I just read to you from Romans 12, verses one and two. What is spirituality? It’s offering yourself to God, body and soul. You are a living sacrifice.

You know what the problem is with a living sacrifice? A living sacrifice can always crawl off the altar because we’ve got free will. We’ve got to choose to lay our lives down for Christ.

We’ve got to internally make that decision, to have that disposition to offer ourselves to Jesus.

And this is what Paul says elsewhere in the New Testament, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This has profound implications for our work. Really whatever we do in life, it all can be, it all should be, with God’s help made holy. And this is exactly what Jesus did along with St. Joseph as they worked together in Joseph’s workshop under the gaze of Our Lady.

Jesus was redeeming the world, even then, He was redeeming work, ordinary work, ordinary family life. Because if we don’t find God in the ordinary things of every day, we will never find Him at all. And ultimately, we find Him in ordinary bread and wine which He transforms to be His body and blood and soul and divinity.

Joseph in that workshop, he literally encountered God in his work, the son of God and his son. And you and I can do the same.

For the 19 on the 19th series, I’m Cale Clarke.

Thanks for joining us for this special Year of St. Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio. Invite your friends and family to sign up to receive these monthly talks at relevantradio.com or on the Relevant Radio app.

Thanks for joining us for this special Year of Saint Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio. Invite your friends and family to sign up to receive these monthly talks at relevantradio.com or on the Relevant Radio app.

Cale Clarke is the host of both The Cale Clarke Show and The Faith Explained on Relevant Radio. On The Faith Explained, Cale dives deep into Scriptures, the Catechism and Sacred Tradition to bring an in-depth look at what the Catholic Church Believes. On the Cale Clarke Show, Cale unpacks how a Catholic perspective affects the nitty-gritty of everyday life. He also looks at what's happening in the culture through a Catholic Lens.