Saturday, November 8, 2008

Common Work

We all have to work. Very few, if any of us, belong to the leisured class where we don’t have to worry about working for a living. But work in a Benedictine community is a little different. Most of us have a specific job, or often several jobs! Everyone who is able also has assigned chores. The dishes have to be washed, the floors swept, meals taken care of, all those everyday tasks that have to be done. Generally everyone knows what they have to do and they pitch in conscientiously and help out.

In this regard we aren’t really any different from a family or organization where everyone has assigned jobs and they carry them out. One way we are somewhat different is in common work. There are always jobs that come up that have to be done that no one is assigned to do. Here in the fall the leaves must be raked, the chestnuts gathered off the lawn. In the late summer it is time to can, dry and otherwise preserve for the coming year. These are all jobs that can’t be done just by assigned people.

So the notes go up on the bulletin board. Are there “volunteers” for canning, raking, folding and labeling newsletters, decorating the dining room for special celebrations? It is a rare week that doesn’t have something above and beyond the usual chores.

And so we sign up. Like the workers in the vineyard some of us sign up early and stay late. Some of us rush in at the 11th hour just when the last of the leaves has been raked or the last pear cored and put into a jar. But perhaps the amazing thing is that it always works out. Everyone comes and contributes to the best of her ability. Rarely does anyone complain that someone came late and didn’t do much. Perhaps after years of living this common way of life we begin to live out the parable. This isn’t our vineyard, it is God’s harvest and God’s reward that we will receive. It is simply our place to show up when we can and welcome one another as we labor together.

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