Homilette for Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time (Labor Day)

(Luke 4:16-30)

Americans tend to rest or recreate on Labor Day. Unlike the other two summer holidays, Labor Day has always fallen on Monday to make a long weekend. Also, Labor Day marks the end of the vacation season – the last day of ease before the fall harvest of research papers and production quotas. Although political campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day giving food for thought, the United States has deliberately avoided a May 1 holiday when most of the world meditates on the meaning of work.

An inveterate unionist once boasted that he would organize everyone that worked for a living; that is -- he explained -- everyone who worked except lawyers, bankers, and scabs! Prejudices against different types of labor still exist, but we might include all professions as falling under Adam’s curse that food for the table would be produced only with sweat from the brow. Although some work is certainly easier than other, almost always there is an element of stress, strain, or monotony involved. In the gospel today Jesus announces that he comes to announce a time that is acceptable to all. He is speaking of emancipation from the drudgery of work with a new form of jubilee year.

Jesus’ good news includes the message that work itself is a gift from God. Whether we are the architects of a new cathedral rendering glory to God or bricklayer’s apprentices who mostly mix cement, our work contributes to the improvement of society. It also provides bread for our bellies, roofs over our heads, and medical assistance for our bodily welfare. Finally, work disciplines us to be industrious, efficient, and considerate. We need work almost as much as we need to relax and to celebrate God's goodness.