Happiness and Work - OTHER DOCUMENTS

Happiness and Work

Luigi Giussani to a group of workers (CDO) in Milan, January 1981

1/15/1981

I am very touched by the invitation made to me to address you because I know I am talking to people who are responding to God with all their energy and from the very depths of their souls - souls which are often burdened with dramatic worries. I also feel a bit awkward because I am not involved in any of the “works” of the “Company of Works” as you all are. However, there is something which unites us and not just individually but rather lies at the source of your initiatives. It is this I wish to speak about, for without it all our efforts, all our building would be in vain – “in vain doth he build who builds without the Lord”.

I would like to begin by referring to some passages from the Book of Deuteronomy which appear in the breviary readings for this week. In these passages Moses encourages his people to be aware that God has chosen them and loved them. God has shown this same love towards us by calling us into existence, giving us a task, a destiny and sustaining us with his presence along the way. Between the call and the destiny lies a journey and this journey is made up of your daily tasks.

This is what Moses says to the people of Israel:

"You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you. And you should do
what is good in the sight of the Lord, that you may be happy, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land which the Lord swore to give to your
fathers." Dt. 6, 17-18

"And the Lord has commanded us to observe all these laws and to fear the Lord our God, so as to be happy for ever and to survive, as we do to this day." Dt.6,24

"Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children after you, may prosper and live long in the country that the Lord your God is giving you forever." Dt.4,40


For Your Happiness

"So that you may be happy": this "good news" lies at the heart of what God says to man. The very heart of God will be pierced for this word, so that this word, happiness, becomes a reality. Everything happens in order that this word which came in time and space remains fulfilled for eternity. The Lord, the mystery who makes all things, calls us into existence so that we may be happy forever. And so the task to which He calls you every day and the "works" you do have this aim; that your lives may be happier. Everything has been given to you for this reason. And I simply want to say to you that when you feel tired or there is some worry which returns every morning when you wake up, this is not so that you may be down-hearted but rather for the sake of your happiness. This is the expression which St. Paul uses to recuperate the word "happiness" referred to by Moses: "Be joyful, I repeat be joyful". I say this to you because without this perspective in your souls you cannot even work well, and living would be unjust. That is why it is right for a mother to give birth because the child is destined for happiness. This is why it is right that we get up in the morning and go to work, even though it may be difficult, because it will lead us to our happiness. And the growth of this certainty over time is the joy which St. Paul speaks about. So my desire for you first and foremost is that, in your work, this awareness of the happiness to which you are called may be a source of joy. In this way you will be able to enjoy your work and work well because without zest one cannot work well.

Imitation of the Creator

Moses also tells us the condition needed for this happiness. The Book of Deuteronomy is basically a set of laws, a reminder of God's commands. But before we talk about "laws" or "commands" it might be better to recall the original command of God. The original law is that we have been given life in order to imitate our Creator by becoming creative. Life has been given to us so that we may live "creatively" (in a meeting of the Association of "Works" this word must be decisive). And time is the fabric within which we express this "creativity". In fact we participate in the mystery in so far as it is creative. When we feel strongly about something or get the inspiration or desire to do something, to create a new entity, this is our creativity. "Works" define that creativity to which God called you through the circumstances of life. It is important that our lives be creative so that they may be happy and attain the goal and destiny of happiness for which we are made. This is my wish for you, that this sense of creativity, this dedication to creativity may make your lives fulfilling and meaningful.

The Law of Obedience

There is a condition however and this brings us back to the notion of "law" or "command" in Moses. In order to create "works" it is not enough to meet people or encounter situations which move us or make us get involved. There must be an attention to relationships which we do not totally define but which we must above all respect. There are certain things we have to respect, to recognise, to embrace and to accept if we are to be creative. Here we also touch on a factor which at first appears to be "negative", that is, toil ("With the sweat of your brow..." Gen. 4) There is an "obedience" which from within must govern the initiative you undertake, the risk you take on. First and foremost it must be an obedience to factors which do not depend on you but impose themselves on you: you must respect these factors. All the effort this requires must be part and parcel of your creativity and the love with which you do things. Without toil and effort we will not continue to love what we do but rather what we do becomes our enemy. My second wish for you is that you do not fear the toil necessitated by your work, because since God came among us and took on our human condition, human effort has taken on a whole new meaning called the Cross. We have to embrace the Cross which is inherent in what we take on and in our humanity. We must embrace it with generosity of spirit, that is with hope. To wish that fatigue does not impede you, that the Cross does not scandalise you, is in fact to wish that your lives be full of hope. When I say life, I mean the moment which is passing, the hitches, the unforeseen difficulties, the plans which are not working out. If you keep in your hearts the conditions I am speaking about today even the heaviest cross will not deprive your lives of joy.

For the Benefit of Humanity

Our creativity allows us to participate in the gesture with which God originally revealed himself when he brought everything out of nothingness and gave it form in the light of its ultimate meaning which is Christ. This creativity which makes our lives joyful and fulfilling, despite the effort and the Cross, is really in obedience to, and in function of a greater plan, the great plan of God. Creativity is meant to serve this plan. The creativity to which we are called is for the benefit of men and women who live in our times. It serves a fascinating order, which is reality as God made it. For this reason we must obey. If it is to be useful there is always obedience involved in our work, e.g. obedience to the circumstances or conditions of our work. What is useful is to live the relationship between the present moment and the overall project of which the moment forms a part. Moses spoke to a people chosen by God for the good of the world.

Gratuitousness

"God chose you not because you were the most numerous of all peoples... but because he loved you" Deut. 7,7. This is the gratuitousness with which God has created you from nothing and given you a name and surname. This is the gratuitousness with which God has chosen you and placed you in circumstances where you can express your fantasy, your intelligence, your heart and your energy. We must allow our lives to be imbued with the awareness of this gratuitousness, this grace, through which we exist and can do things. For without this awareness, what we have said does not hold: creativity becomes a lie, our joy becomes superficial, the fruit of forgetfulness and denial. Our efforts become unbearable, obedience turns into humiliation, and we do not love what we are doing, it becomes heavy and does not serve its purpose. It is the gratuitousness of God which we must imitate.
It is this gratuitousness which enables us to get up in the morning and take up our task again with joy energy and goodwill. We can do nothing without grace, we cannot even exist without grace. Gratuitousness has the characteristic of going beyond what must be done out of duty. If someone says "I have to do so much, I have done it, that is it" (to say that means that not even "so much" will be done well. If an impulse does not go beyond the limit it sets, it will not even reach that limit) something is missing in that person's action i.e. gratuitousness. In what must this gratuitousness, this grace in which generosity becomes love, consist? Love as we well know does not have limits. There must therefore be in what we do something which goes beyond the limit of what we do.

To Love Christ

We have already said that what we do is for something much greater and which goes beyond us. But this is not all. The gratuitous aspect of our actions, the grace of what we do is really a love. And love is not just an attachment to a Greater Project. Love is a "you", love is an other person. Love is a unique, an ultimate You through whom all men live and move. Love is of God, the living God who became man in Christ and worked with his hands. To love therefore is to love Christ. If there was somebody here who did not believe, who was not a Christian, I would still use the phrase "love Christ"! Because then your work, whatever type it is, will really be creative, will be happier, more useful, more aware in sacrifice, more capable of resistance, of perseverance. It will help your soul and enable you to do things you would not otherwise have known how to do. We must participate in the gratuitousness with which God called us by name and the supreme gratuitousness with which he came among us as a companion for our lives. We participate in this gratuitousness of God through gratuitousness with which we get up in the morning, we look at things, we take on the risks of daily life, we love. We get up in the morning for love; that is for love of Christ in all the things we will do.

"You Christ, will make me capable of opening my arms to embrace all men. Moment by moment, I offer you my work during the day, Christ for the whole world, just as you offered your life for the whole world".

My wish for you is that you learn this love so that you may be happy.

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