Labor Pains


Labor Pains

The right of workers seems an appropriate topic for celebration of the memorial of Joseph the Worker.

Pope Pius XII instituted this memorial in 1955 in direct contradiction to the May 1st Worker Day celebration of the former Soviet Union.

One cannot fail to notice the acceleration of the erosion of worker rights both here in the USA and around the world. Associations (or unions) which the Church deems good and proper are now considered the exception rather than the rule. There are many and sometime complex reasons for these changes. It will take a healthy amount of good will by all stakeholders to realign rights & responsibilities of the worker to the ‘new economy’. None of this is new. Lipstick on a pig may be a better description.

So what about Joseph the Worker?

Let us see a general theme in the daily and Sunday readings of the Church from Resurrection Sunday (Easter) to Pentecost Sunday (in a few weeks). The Gospel of Matthew reading today (The rejection at Nazareth (Matt 13:54ff) is a clear example of the cynical.

In many of the stories there are three types of people in regards to faith: cynics, skeptics and believers.

From this vantage point we can see:

  • Cynic – a person who doubts the existence or interest of the divine in human affairs. It is purely the sphere of human domination and self-interest. We essentially operate at the level of dogs.
  • Skeptic – a person who believes there is a god, even a loving god, but he/she is exempted from the benevolence. “He may love you, but he doesn’t love me”. But questioning and open to change.
  • Believer – a person how acknowledges God, experiences God and trusts in God.

Each actor plays a role in the readings. For fun see Stephen’s discourse (Acts 7), Simon the Magician (Acts 8), and either Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8) or the story of Cornelius (Acts 10).

But I digress.

These celebrations in the USSR place man as the sole cause of the affairs and state of man and workers. Whatever ideas of rights & responsibilities come from man for man and are primarily of the fount of self-interest. God is not found nor contemplated as a source of any good.

Pope Pius XII says no. Our model should be Joseph the Worker. That he in all his work and hope saw the providential care of God, the benevolence of his love and his constant attending to our needs. Our model for understanding work and workers must come from a divine origin. In this framework of thought we find more fruitful understanding of work, secure and fitting ordered for the good of the worker, children and youth.

Joseph the Worker is considered the Master of the House of God. Ever calling and assisting us to see the glory and great works of God.

Joseph’s life story calls us to be open to the miraculous, hear the voices of God’s messengers (the Gospel and Magisterium) and to be attentive to the faithful actions of God in each day of the life of a worker.

It must be added that the Church has no love for the pan-national, raw capitalism of today. This too is cynical view of the divine-human partnership. While the Church supports private property and fruits of one’s labor it is always understood in the context of community and moderating effects of the Beatitudes. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, says:

  1. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

Be a Joseph. Act like a master of the house. Attend to right relationship.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

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