{"Ole Man River"} This well-known song from "Showboat" in 1936, made famous by William Warfield and Paul Robeson pretty well sums up what too many millions of workers endure on this Labor Day weekend throughout the world. The diamond mines, coal mines, mineral extraction sites of all sorts, poorly run and structurally unsound garment factories, are all places of slave LABOR in varying degrees.

What is Labor? A dictionary will enumerate various nouns and verbs that are synonyms for the word. At the top of the list is the labor of the birth process by which mothers bring new life and fulfillment into their families and into the world through their children. A common meaning in our experience is "to work", whether mentally, mathematically or physically. Exertion says a lot about our efforts. Pain is what our bodies feel when muscles are overworked.

The first reading refers to the word humble or humility, which means the absence of pride or self-assertion. But does it also mean that the lowly and meek, along with those better off, are not to work for justice in the work world or for the equality of decent wages? Popes in the last centuries have taught the dignity of human labor and the need for unions and other organizations to help maintain this dignity through fair and just compensation for their efforts.

In the second reading, we have the promise of a new covenant or charter or statement of the promise of justice. Through our efforts in this agreement, can we help to bring about a good and decent life for all based on the active presence of God in our lives?

The hardships of making ends meet with minimum wages cause unending frustration and feelings of inadequacy. The present day efforts of workers in the fast food industry to raise the level of the minimum wage law deserve the interest and support of all of us. Immigrant workers, temporary workers, and guest workers earn little. But added to that they are subjected to all kinds of physical and health dangers as well as political and financial exploitation and chicanery. They deserve our serious and continued attention and support in the market and in political action.

The unrestricted free market philosophy devalues work and sees only profits for investors. Investors tend to share very little of their wealth with those who have produced the end product. One of many causes of inequality is the lack of justice in the lives of too many people. Working and earning persons realize the value of their labor but cannot enjoy an adequately compensated way of life because of the restrictions put out by these moneymakers and stockholders.

Jesus in the gospel teaches, among other things, the inherent value of each person. There should be no hierarchy : a higher place at the table - that assigns the dignity of human beings based on the wealth or power or prestige and "perks" they accumulate. A false assertion would be that the poor and suffering and laboring will get their reward in the next life. They have a right to justice and equality and happiness in this life. It is the strong message on this "Labor Day" weekend . Amen

Share:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page