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:
- Pope Francis and Economic Inequality--Five Essential Quotes. What if the food we throw away really is stolen from the table of the poor?
- Justice for Immigrants Postcard Campaign. What if we actually welcome Christ himself whenever we welcome a "stranger"?
- A "Prezi" Animated Commentary on Income Inequality. What if the rich really are becoming super rich, and the poor are being left even farther behind?
- A Labor Day Statement from the U.S. Bishops. What if the economy is "for people"?
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.