Homilette for Monday, September 7, 2009

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

(Colossians 1:24-2:3; Luke 6:6-11)

This year the French government underwent a heated political debate on whether to allow stores to be open on Sunday. For over a hundred years the country’s commerce has been largely curtailed on the traditional day of rest. Recently, however, President Sarkozy and liberal politicians have campaigned for reform to spur France’s flagging economy. They were opposed by a rare coalition of labor advocates and social conservatives who argued that the country could do better than imitate American “commuting, sleeping, and buying.”

Would France’s liberal politicians find an ally in Jesus? In the gospel today Jesus defies the scribes and Pharisees who reject any kind of work on Sunday. But Jesus hardly seems a social a revolutionary for wanting to cure the man with a withered right hand on Sunday. He argues that because restoring life is not human pursuit of profit but God’s work, it cannot be prohibited.

It seems fitting to read a gospel passage dealing with Sabbath observance on Labor Day. Americans have today off not just to rest but to reflect on the value of work. We work in order to live, but also to create a better society. On the other hand, time to rest is necessary to replenish energy and to recognize that there are other, even higher, purposes in life than “commuting, sleeping, and buying.” Sunday worship and relaxation serve these other purposes. With or without government mandate everyone does well to curb activity on this day in favor of faith, family, reflection, and some fun.