Labor Day was never a pat on the back for the wage earner. It was about unions and how unions responded to mistreatment by absent owners and work-line bosses. The Knights of Labor marched through the streets of New Your City in 1882, agitating for a day to honor the sacrifice and courage of workers to stand together in solidarity and to organize for the common good of the workers who shared inhumane treatment. A few states like Oregon, Colorado, New York and New Jersey began celebrating Labor Day before 1894, when Congress made it a national holiday.
While respecting the origin of Labor Day, labor, that is to say work, has many significant meanings. People work in diverse ways, sometimes for pay, sometimes to accomplish something new, to improve society and sometimes for the sheer joy of producing, contributing, or being in harmony with God’s call to share work, as we read in Genesis.
Today’s Gospel give us a thought about the work of moving over - making room for someone/something else than what arises in us despite our own limited vision or desire.
As the post Labor Day season begins, let’s make room for people who can teach us unexpected lessons. I think of missionaries who expect to teach the people about faith, only to find faith into the places they go. My friend, Bob, set aside his own personal reluctance to have a conversation with his New York Pakistani cab driver. Bob learned about common things they shared in life and values insights from this encounter to this day.
There’s a certain security in believing that we have the answers to life’s questions sewn up or to believe that how we are and what we think is exactly right and that we don’t have to change one iota. Making room for new consciousness can be as simple as eliminating or minimizing the use of throw -away plastic items, thereby not contributing to junk in our oceans. To welcome a new consciousness means letting go of absolutes about ourselves and our world and welcoming life-giving change of mind and heart and action.
And here’s one last thing, to keep it short on this holiday weekend, let’s make room for the child in us. As we grow up and older, we tend to leave behind the inquisitiveness and dependence of childhood, our need to belong, our sense of wonder. When we rediscover the child within, that child can lead us to see anew the face of God.
So many aspects of life and of ourselves to work at! As this new season begins, honor whatever life-enriching call is attractive to you. Honor it. Do what you can to become ennobled and a more loving person in your family and our world.
-Sister Joan Sobala