The Reward Of Toil

11 Apr

The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.  ~ John Ruskin

We are on an awesome journey, an incredible journey, a journey that is marked by some of the highest highs and lowest lows that we will ever see.  It is a journey that is often filled with doubt, fear, and trepidation as well as with triumph, joy, and hope.  It is a journey of contradictions:  one that is very personal at its core yet ultimately communal by nature.

That journey takes much effort.  We feel that effort most during the seasons of Lent and Advent, penitential seasons that prepare us for major feasts in the Church.  Sometimes, as we make that journey, we question whether the work is worth it.  In this morning’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we heard, “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” (Is 49:4)

The toil of our journey does not provide “things” for us.  The work that we put into our faith lives brings about more reward than that.  It changes us.  We become something different than the base sinner that we are.  We struggle, we toil, to rise above the temptations that would keep us living in sin.  If we are successful, we become changed people.

But that change is still not the reward.  That change opens our eyes to the reality that there is still more change that needs to be accomplished because there is still more sin in our lives.

We often wonder why so many of the great saints lamented their sinfulness.  From our perspective, we saw incredibly perfected individuals, individuals who were accomplishing wonderful deeds and who were inspirations to so many.  Yet, through the prism of grace, they saw sinfulness marring their relationship with God and they knew that there was more that they needed to do in their lives.

Our Lent may have been filled with much struggle.  We might be tired from the journey.  Yet, when we get to Easter, we will have reason to celebrate because we have become something more than we were when we began Lent.  And that struggle will have opened our eyes to more change that needs to happen in our lives.

One step at a time, one burden at a time, one struggle at a time:  this is the hallmark of all who follow Christ.  He is with us in every step, He helps to shoulder our burden, and He will give us what we need to be victorious in our struggle.

Hold firm by holding on to Christ.

FAITH ACTION:  If you know anyone who is struggling in their lives, be the ears, hands, and heart of Christ by coming to their assistance.