Today, Catholic Christians celebrate the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the second-to-the-last Sunday of the Church Year.
On this day, we hear some very interesting words in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians (3: 7-12).
In today’s selection, we hear how the disciples came to Thessalonica and lived among the Christian community for a while. While there, they tried to model behavior they felt all Christians should follow. Specifically, they did not beg the community for food. Rather, they worked hard and thus were not a burden on others.
This letter also reminds the Christian community of Thessalonica not to be busybodies, minding the business of others. Rather, they should mind their own business, engage in hard work, and eat their own food.
The theme we explore today is work, the distinguishing characteristic of the adult. But before we look at that more closely, let’s look at a story by James M. and James C. Kennedy called “A Lady Named Lill.”
Lillian was a young French Canadian girl who grew up in a farming village called River Canard, Ontario. Her primary language was French, but as she grew up, she also learned English as a second language. Her family called her “Lill.”
When she was 16 years old, her father told Lill that she had received enough education, and now it was time for her to go to work to help support the family. The year was 1922, and because Lill did not have a very good education and few marketable skills, the future looked dim for her indeed.
Lill’s father was a very stern man. Not only did he rarely take no for an answer, he never accepted excuses. On top of all of that, Lill lacked self-confidence.
Every day, Lill would ride a bus into the big cities of Windsor and Detroit to search for a job. Unfortunately, when she found a place that had a “Help Wanted” sign, she couldn’t muster the courage to actually knock on the door. Rather, she would walk aimlessly around the city and, at dusk, return home. Her father would always ask, “Any luck today, Lill?”
Lill would answer, “No…no luck today, Dad.”
Finally, however, Lill worked up enough courage to actually enter a building where she saw a sign in a company that said, “Help Wanted – Secretarial. Apply Within.”
When she knocked on the door, an office manager named Margaret opened the door and greeted her. In her broken English, Lill told her she was there to apply for the secretarial position. Lill also falsely stated she was 19 instead of just 16.
Margaret knew that something was not quite right about Lill’s story, but she welcomed her anyway. She guided Lill through rows and rows of people sitting at typewriters and adding machines. Lill felt as though there were a hundred pair of eyes on her, and she wanted nothing more to escape.
Margaret finally came to an empty typewriter and asked Lill to type a letter. The time was 11:40 a.m., and the other employees would be leaving for lunch at noon. Lill figured that she would just vanish with the workers at lunch and never return, for she really did not know how to type.
But, she tried. She even did a whole paragraph. Margaret returned, looked at the paragraph that contained many mistakes, put her hand on Lill’s shoulder, and said, “Lill, you are doing good work!”
Lill was stunned. With those simple words of encouragement, she no longer wanted to escape. Her confidence began to grow. Lill did stay at that company through two world wars and the Great Depression, through 11 United States presidents and 6 Canadian prime ministers – all because gave the office manager had given the shy and uncertain young girl the gift of self-esteem when she knocked at the door. In fact, Lill worked at the company 51 years.
From this story, and from the passage from 2 Thessalonians, we can learn many things. Here are just two.
First, work is a precious gift. Unfortunately, sometimes we take our work for granted, forgetting just how precious it is. People in other nations want nothing more than to have a job, a job that simply does not exist in their countries. That is why many come to rich nations where jobs are plentiful, so they can support their families. Always give thanks to God for the work you have.
Second, work is a duty of adults. In fact, work is the defining characteristic of adulthood. Unlike children who must rely entirely on parents and others for their care, adults are called to support themselves. Now in today’s passage, we read, “…we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Note that the Scripture writer talked about people who were “unwilling” to work, not people who were “unable to” work. You and I know of certain adults who do not work, but yet they seem physically capable. I would caution you, however, to not judge, for they may have deep psychological wounds that we cannot see which prevents them from acting as adults in the realm of work.
As we continue our life journeys this week, take some time to reflect on your work. Are you a good worker? Do you thank God every day for your work?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2016.
Story source: James M. Kennedy & James C. Kennedy, “A Lady Named Lill,” in Jack Canfield,
Mark Victor Hansen, Maida Rogerson, Martin Rutte, and Tim Clauss (Eds.), Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work, CSS Publishing, 2012, pp. 72-74.