Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
Many people may look at Labor Day as a day of rest, but it is more than that. Many people look at work as a drudgery or burden to be endured, but it is much more than that. The Lord established the Sabbath as a day of rest from our labors when in the Book of Genesis we are told on the seventh day the Lord rested from his work [of creation]. The Lord gives us permission to rest from our life work.
The Church has always put a positive spin on work as something valuable and necessary for the dignity of every human being. For many years the Church has commented on the necessity of work in the lives of every human being recognizing that Jesus devoted many years of his own life on earth to manual work as a carpenter.
In his document Laudato Si, On the Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis writes: “We were created with a vocation to work. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.”
On Labor Day we pause to reflect on the dignity of work for every member of the human family. Again Pope Francis tells us: “We need to remember that men and women have ‘the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments.’ Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.”
I remember one day meeting one of the people who come for sandwiches as I was heading over to the Catholic Center on a beautiful day bemoaning the fact that I had to go to work. He simply said to me: “I wish I had a job to go to.” I haven’t thought of work the same way since. Let us be grateful that God has given us the ability to work and pray for those who need work.