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Dear friends. This lockdown means that many people are out of work and are struggling financially. For many more, work hours and practices have changed with many people working from home. Some people are busier than ever. Today, based on the readings, I would like to share a few thoughts on the dignity of human work that is closely related to the dignity of every human being – a kind of celebration of the value and importance of everyone’s work and contribution.

The first reading exalts the virtues and qualities of a woman in her home. Today we acknowledge the work of women who work from home and in their home. The home is meant to be a safe and happy place but there has been up to a 30% increase in domestic violence against women in 2020. With far more time spent in our homes, we are coming under more pressure. But this is a time to grow in patience and understanding and to ask forgiveness when we take frustration out on others. Only then can trust grow again.

For many of us, the current lockdown has meant we had to adapt our work routines. To adapt is not easy for some and yet it is very important. For many, the changes have been depressing. For others, change has brough with it new opportunities for creativity, DIY, baking, cooking and learning something new. The woman in the reading from the book of Proverbs is industrious and creative. She works with her hands and uses her skill to do something new. Could this be a time for us to do the same? Perhaps we have a talent for something we have not used in a while? Maybe there is a new hobby we might try or something we never got around to before now. Everyone is blessed with different talents. The skill set of no two people are the same. Try something new. In the spirit of the Gospel, don’t be afraid to try. The man in the Gospel was not condemned for his failure but for his lack of trying.

The woman in the reading stretches out her hands to the poor and embraces the needy. Today we mark the annual ‘World Day of the Poor’ that began with the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. Notice how the woman both gives to the poor with her hands to help them but also embraces the needy. In other words she takes the poor to her heart and presses them close. She doesn’t flick a coin and walk away. She is friends with them and is warm towards them. In this she is also a model for us. The call to mercy is a call not to feel too sorry for ourselves but to reach out to those who are suffering even more – the elderly, people living alone, the person we meet on the street. Mercy has a wonderful creative power to find new ways of connecting with people. We welcome these opportunities to get out there and notice with new eyes to the poor in our midst.

Finally, the woman is praised for her wisdom. In our age of technology and internet, information in plenty but wisdom is scarce. Wisdom comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit and from prayer. It comes from thinking deeper on questions more than answers. Wisdom comes, at the end of the day, from God to whom all of us will be accountable. Wisdom is the passionate desire not to be like the man in the Gospel who did not use his talent, who wasted opportunities, who lived in fear and who blew the one chance we all have in life to make a difference.

Friends, in these challenging times, value who you are but also what you do. Become aware of your gifts and talents that God has given you and seek his guidance on how to use them well and creatively for the benefit of others and yourself. This crisis will pass but it is an opportunity to grow and mature as we explore new landscapes. For everyone who is trying their best at this time, my prayer is that of the Gospel today addressed to the servants: ‘Well done good and faithful servant, come and join in God’s happiness’.