Monday, August 26, 2013

Living Labor Day

So what will you be celebrating this Labor Day?  As the official closing long weekend of summer, it's clearly a time to be thankful for the special blessings we've enjoyed during this season of re-creation.  And, for teachers and students everywhere, it's a chance to take a deep breath before the long haul of the new school year hits full stride.

But Labor Day is also an opportunity to pause in gratitude for the gift of work.  For it is work which has the potential to help us forge fully human identities.  And it is work which has the capacity to hone our strengths into virtues, as well as to chisel away our weaknesses before they become vices.

In addition, Labor Day provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the pressing issues of our times--such as, economic immigrants, income inequalities, and global financial concerns.  Do I stand in communion with those who seek meaningful work and a living wage, or do I support power structures designed to maintain the status quo?  Do I cling to my comfortable lifestyle and rationalize protecting "my own," or am I open to working for justice for all of my brothers and sisters?

From the very beginning, the Church has stood in solidarity with the "least" and with those who are powerless in the eyes of the world.  In recent decades the Church has spoken on behalf of the rights of workers and has raised provocative questions about a global capitalism driven by the maximization of profit margins.  The Church does defend the right to private property, but frames it within the context of a universal destination of all goods--"the goods of creation are destined for the whole human race" (CCC, n. 2402).  Moreover, the Catechism emphasizes that "the universal destination of goods remains primordial" (n. 2403), and so "my" property is first and foremost not really mine.  On the contrary, I am the steward of gifts which should be used for the good of all.

Jesus, of course, confronted the timeless temptation of mammon--that false god of worldly wealth which is rooted in avarice.  Here are a few samplings of recent reflections and initiatives on related themes, which follow out the economic implications of such challenging teachings:
As we enjoy Labor Day weekend with family and friends, let's recall Jesus' teaching about the narrow gate: "People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God" (Lk 13: 29).  This is what we pray for when we enter into Jesus' prayer to the Father, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done..."

Thankfully, the Lord himself is the one laboring on behalf of each of us and of workers everywhere. And we know from experience that, when Christ throws a banquet, he invites "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" (Lk 14:13).  So we each need to find a way to do the same--in solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters.