Man was created in God’s image and likeness, and the aim of every man is to be like God: “Be ye Holy as I am Holy”. The first thing done in the Bible, the first record of God’s example to man is in his work… his 6 day work of creation. Man is created to work, and to make “good” things. Man is not created to work in some job that he hates from 9 to 5, and then waste the rest of his life watching TV. Man was created to work towards something good, something that he is properly happy doing.
When I say “properly happy”, I use the word “proper” to express Aristotle’s idea. A “property” of something is something which sets that something apart from everything else. For one thing to be “proper” to something, it is that thing which really defines just what it is. So when I say that man is “properly happy” doing something, I mean that he is doing that one thing which sets him apart from all other creatures. Man is set apart from the other creatures in that he is made to the image and likeness of God. Doing God’s work is what makes man properly happy. “Do all for the glory of God”.
Man is made to work. When I say work, don’t think of it as something bad… for some reason people love to present work as a bad, negative thing, something to be avoided at all costs. The “work” in your life should be something that you are willing to spend all your time on. Think of the secular world apart from Catholicism; all the people we acclaim as the “great men” never did a miserable job that they hated… they did work that they were obsessed with. What famous person can you think of just checked the boxes in life, and constantly looked for vacation time? What great person can you think of just worked a job from 9 to 5 and said “there, now I can do something I really enjoy”. No! Their work was their life! For these secular people, however, we can’t say much about what happens to them after they died, or if they died happily. The defining difference between the saints and the great people of the secular world is that the Saints were doing God’s work, which not only fulfilled the material side of man, but also gave happiness to man’s Soul. Not only was St. John Bosco passionate about his work, when it also gave joy to his soul. Man is made to work. For Human Beings, made in the image of God, and doing the work of God, work is a thing that we are passionate about.
There is an old Story about St. John the evangelist. One day St. John was sitting and playing with a dove, and a Hunter saw him. The hunter was surprised that such a great, important man as St. John would amuse himself in such a humble way. The hunter asked him, “Are you that great John whose fame brought me here to meet you? Why are you humbling yourself to amusements?” St. John asked him “What is that in your hands?”, the hunter replied, “a bow”. St. John asked, “Why do you not always carry your bow stretched?” The hunter explained, “I dare not. If I do, the constant strain of the string would cause the bow to lose its spring and tautness, and it would become useless.” St. John replied, “Just the same with myself. A little and brief relaxation of my mind eases the force of the tension of my life. I will grow slack though unbroken work, and I will not be able to obey the power of the Spirit”. St. John is a good example of a man who was passionate for God’s work, but recognized that he was a creature of soul and body. He needed rest! In order for St. John to preach and teach effectively, he needed to have a sharp mind… and how could he keep himself alert if he didn’t rest himself from time to time? This is what recreation means. God Himself gave us the first example of rest. After his 6 days of work during creation, he rested and blessed the sabbath day. “Six days shall you work”. In ancient Israel, every seventh year, the ground was not farmed, so that the soil would be able to keep itself full of nutrients for crops. God knows that we need rest, and he commands us to rest, in order to serve and work at our best condition.
At the same time, Recreation is not watching YouTube for hours on end at 3 o’clock in the morning. Recreation is not playing video games. Think of the word “RE – CREATION”. To “recreate” according to the OED is “to restore to a good or normal condition from a state of weakness of exhaustion; to refresh, reinvigorate”. The goal here is not to get up from staring at a screen and come up all bleary eyed with those images still running across your brain. The goal is to enliven yourself! For myself, I know that sports are the best recreation I can think of… come back from school, play some basketball to get rid of all the things I was frustrated about, or was stuck trying to figure out. Tire by body out, get a sweat going, take a shower, eat something… I am all refreshed and eager to get back to work. Recreation should be something to get you refreshed, not get your brain all hyped up for something that doesn’t exist.
Man is made to do great works! To be truly human, you need to work… it’s in our nature; and where there is work, there is rest. Recreation is supposed to enable you to do your life’s work better! You can’t only work, and you can’t only play. “It is the business of a wise man to order.”Introduction to Ethics As a human you need to balance your life. Rest implies work… you can’t “rest” if you’re not taking a break from anything! Within these two there is no idleness. Never be idle! “Idle hands are the devil’s tools”. An illustration I read in a book once went like this… a spring is clean and clear because it constantly flows. Any impurities pass out as soon as they fall in. And Idle person is like a stagnant pool. Sin lies in you like the layer of slime on the surface of standing water. This is not the dignity of the Christian! There were and are secular Pagans who work hard for money. We should be willing to work all the more, because we have something real to work and to live for. Heaven! “Oh, my brethren, who is there in this world so noble that he would disdain to carry a basket of mud all the world over, in the hope of obtaining a house full of gold? Alas, why will we not endure a little shame to obtain life eternal?” ~Little Flowers of St. Francis