My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Once again we gather this year for the celebration of this special Eucharist on Labor Day!
This celebration of Labor Day is a tradition that was started in 1880 by President Cleveland in the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers killed here in the 1894 protest knows as the Almond Strike.
So Labor Day is always a special occasion. So thank God for the gift of Work and to pray for our country — this year especially for the economic recovery of our country.
We especially take this time in this Holy Mass to pray for all our brothers and sisters who are out of work and need a job. Let us pray that we all come together to help our brothers and sisters in need. And let us pray for an improvement in our economy, and for the courage to a build a world in which God’s gifts are better shared.
We know that the times that we are going through are difficult, but it is a special opportunity to reflect on the beauty of work — the gift of work.
And I think to better understand the importance of work to the human person, we need to reflect on the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospels say that Jesus worked for most of his adult life, until he was about thirty as a carpenter, just like his earthly father, St. Joseph.
So we can really say, as we all know that Jesus — who worked with human hands and loved with a human heart — came to give all of us the grace we need to become saints. Not in spite of, or apart of our work, but in our work and through our work. Not in spite of, or apart from our work, but in our work and through our work.
It is interesting that in today’s passage of the Gospel, work it is also an important part. In the passage we have just heard, the scene — the Gospel scene — is tense.
The scene is over what kind of work it is lawful to do on the Sabbath, which God established as a day of rest. The Scribes and the Pharisees are already looking for a way to kill Jesus. And they are hoping that we would perform a healing on the Sabbath, so that they can bring charges against him.
Jesus, as we just heard, goes ahead and performs this work of mercy, healing the man withered right hand.
On one level, this Gospel is about showing us the divine power of Jesus and that he is the “Lord of the Sabbath.”2
But, in a sense, it’s also a way of helping us understand that whatever we are doing, if we do it for the love of God at any time, it becomes really part of our human vocation — our Christian faith.
It also gives —this passage of the Gospel helps us to understand how we need to relate everything to Jesus Christ and how we have to walk with the healing grace he gives us.
The man’s withered right hand today is a symbol of the spiritual weaknesses and the shortcomings that we all have.
Each of us must come to Jesus, like the man with the withered hand, and ask Jesus to heal us, to help us to overcome the obstacles and sins in our lives so we can grow in holiness.
And it is also a sign that we, all of us as a society, need to look at Jesus for his healing power. To solve, to address, to help us to make the decisions to make our world a better world. A place where we can live with peace, looking for the common good of our society and putting together all the different kinds of work we can perform for the service of God and our society. We need to go to Jesus.
We have to listen to Jesus’ voice. That’s why it is so important to learn about the social teachings of the Church. Because the church is helping us understand what is it God’s plan for the human person and for our society.
That’s what the Church, throughout the years, has been talking about rights and responsibilities of workers. That’s what we look at Jesus — his life, his teachings that are coming to us especially through those documents of the social teachings of the Church and the example of so many of you and all of us who are trying to work and sanctify our daily life.
Then we can understand what is it God’s plan for the human person and for society and how we can make better this world.
Jesus will give us his grace, just as he heals the man today. He asked one thing from that man: stretch out your hand. In a sense today, he’s telling all of us, that in order to receive his grace, his healing power, as a human person and as a society, we need to stretch out our hands.
We grow in virtue through little everyday efforts to be holy. Little everyday efforts to be good Christian people. Every day we have to make a conscious effort to make small acts of self-denial and self-offering. Small acts of virtues and love.
That’s why I like to talk a lot about the spirituality of work. Cause for most of us there’s always the temptation of sin and conflict between our daily work and our spiritual life. And if we stretch out our hands, we look for the help of the grace of God, the power of God — the healing power of God, then we are going to be able to find Jesus in our daily life. To transform everything into a source of Christian perfection, of holiness, of love.
And if we make these efforts, my brothers and sisters, Jesus will do the rest.
It is especially important that we live this way in our ordinary life, in our daily work. Most of us work all day long. So we got to find the way to really find God in our daily life.
Through work we participate in a special way in the life of God. Work for us, is not just only a social issue, it is a way of holiness. A means of sanctification that makes us better as human persons and helps us to fulfill God’s plan for us as his children. Working is a special blessing from God.
So today, let us make a good resolution, once again, as we participate in this special celebration of the Eucharist to ask for the grace to make progress in our spiritual life, especially rediscovering the spirituality of work.
That we really be able to find God in our daily life and that the power of God will transform our society to make it the most just, peaceful, and happy society.
Let’s ask Our Blessed Mother, Lady of the Angels, to help us to as we strive for the holiness that her Son calls us to have.
1. Readings (23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year A): Col 1:24-2:3; Luke 6:6-11
2. Luke 6:5