On the 1st of May we celebrated the feast of St Joseph the Worker. St Joseph is the man of faith who was there for Jesus and Mary. He trusted in God’s word that what was happening in Mary was brought about by the power of God.
He is the quiet achiever in the background doing great things. Strong traditions put Joseph as the craftsman, carpenter come builder, good with his hands.
May Day, the 1st of May is also celebrated as the workers day by communism. Atheistic communism is very strong on the collective.
Christianity is about the common good. This means that the rights of the individual as well as the rights of the society being both sacred and important.
The dignity of human work is treated extensively in the great Catholic social justice documents or encyclicals such as ‘Rerum Novarum’ of Pepe Leo XIII, ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ written 40 years after Rerum Novarum and many others. They speak of the rights of, and respect for workers. They reject the misuse of people like as if they were just mere commodities. They talk about a just wage and decent working conditions. They reject any form of exploitation of human beings.
The Catholic understanding of work is that it is sacred. In Genesis in the creation stories God comes across as a worker. Human work is seen as part of the ongoing work of God our creator. We partner with God to continue making this a better world for everyone. Of course, one can question whether much of human activity is always improving living and environmental conditions in our planet for all.
A just sharing of the bounty of God, source of all that is good, has been part of Catholic social teaching for many, many years, in fact one could say from the beginning going back to Jesus. A definition of work which has resonated with me for a long time comes from the Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, ‘Work is love made visible’. All work should be about making things better for self and others. Hence it can indeed be seen as an expression of love. Social responsibility should not just stop with just looking after ‘our own’.
We are a global village. As we become more aware of social inequality and injustice, we cannot be just bystanders and profit from the mistreatment of others. Sweat shops, child labour, human trafficking and other questionable use of labour often benefit those in rich countries like ours by proving cheap commodities and services. It is indeed attractive to find cheaper commodities but is it just, is it right? What is our Christian response to this inequality?
St Joseph, that just man who looked after Jesus and Mary, Pray for us.
God Bless you today.
Bishop of Darwin