It is Labor Day weekend here at this old house. There will be some labor, some fun, and some labor that is fun! Cooking falls into the latter category for me. I got a new recipe that I am making for tomorrow. It is my turn to host the neighborhood Mah Jongg group and that is a good place to try out new recipes. This recipe requires me to make four eight-inch meringues and a whipped-cream infused lemon curd filling. After making an alternating tower with those two things, it is now in the freezer overnight. Tomorrow, I will pull it out shortly before everyone gathers for the game and pour a lemon syrup over it. It sounds wonderful though I have been mulling how one might cut such a creation into pieces. Meringues don’t slice easily like a cake; they tend to break and crumble. Maybe the lemon curd filling coupled with the lemon syrup will soften the meringues enough to allow the them to slice more easily. I will have to see. Fortunately, the neighborhood Mah Jongg gang is a forgiving group who likes (most of) my experiments.
Labor Day is meant to celebrate work and workers, the gift given by God at the beginning of Creation. Through the Fall (see Genesis 3), work and pleasure have not always been synonymous as they were intended to be. The ability to labor creatively is not a gift that everyone has. Some people have no work. Some have work that is drudgery or demeaning. Some have work but not enough compensation for the long hours they sacrifice doing it. The ability to have both united is a real gift.
Fr. Jim Martin writes about this in “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything”:
1. Vocation is different from work or a job or even a career. You could say that work is the labor required to do a task. A job is the situation in which you do it. A career is the long-term trajectory or pattern of many jobs. But vocation is deeper than each of those concepts…Vocation overarches our work, jobs, and career and extends to the kind of person we hope to become. It is what we are called to do, and who we are called to be.
2. Clearly some people are able to find God in their work. But what if you’re stuck in a career that feels stale, a job that doesn’t seem like a vocation, or work you don’t enjoy? [In the Ignatian tradition, you can find God in difficult or boring work] through the people you work with [celebrating life with them, being community with each other], by understanding that your job is directed toward a larger goal [caring for your family and others], by working as leaven in unhealthy work situations [seeking to do what you can in small ways to change the work environment].
In other words, we may not always have control over our situation but we do have control over our attitude. Maybe your joy and purpose in life is not found in your job but in the things you do outside of your working hours: volunteer situations, spending time with family, teaching through your Church community, singing in a choir or doing community theater, taking art classes, traveling. If your vocation is to be a disciple of Christ, then that cuts across all lines of duty and pleasure. That can happen in any circumstance of living and working!
As we mark the end of summer with the three-day weekend, consider spending a few minutes reflecting on what is your vocation and how it is or is not being lived out in your work, job, and/or career. And may you find some moments of joy and pleasure in this holiday weekend.