Last weekend I was at Mass at St. Mary’s in Canandaigua, where the homilist for the weekend was Deacon George Dardess. George was there to thank the community for its efforts in helping sustain the migrant community centered in Marion, and to encourage continued support. He told a story about his first time going out to harvest an onion field with a group of migrants. Once there, they asked him, “Where are your gloves?” George didn’t even know he was supposed to wear gloves. The men huddled. Then they came up with a clever solution. One left handed worker would lend George his right glove and a right handed worker would give George his left glove. The work commenced. George never forgot the migrants’ care for him, their novel approach to problem-solving, and their dedication to getting the job done. These unlettered men were workers in the spirit of God.
Work is a big, ever ancient, ever new topic. It is first of all, an extension of God’s creative and redeeming action. We are creative workers in our own right and at the same time, cooperators with God in the work of sustaining, building, renewing and rebuilding our world. So in a very real sense, our work – whatever it is – belongs in the context of friendship, community, faith, education, play and celebration. Whoever we are, we work together with and for others and we benefit from their talents and daily labors.
Our work does not define us, although we sometimes let it, especially if we believe we have an “important job.” But all jobs are important. In an age when the human race is moving toward greater technological sophistication, people will have to rethink and revalue both who we are and what our work means. Some works are ageless, others are time limited. We need wisdom to know the difference.
Everywhere, in whatever career, vocation, profession, service, trade, or ministry we find ourselves, we are not alone in our efforts, successes or defeats. People labor across the world for the fruits of the land, for the advancement of culture, for better life for all.
This Labor Day, so significant in terms of the labor movement in our country, let us pledge to shape work in a meaningful and ennobling way. As the writer Simone Weil reminds us, work has a spiritual nature. Action based on this realization needs to be released in us.
With this world view, and God as our model of work, let’s celebrate one another this holiday!
~Sister Joan Sobala