Labor Day invites us to reflect on the value of work Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes

Labor Day is a public holiday when we honor the American labor movement and contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. It also offers us opportunities to reflect upon our work’s value.

Through Baptism and Confirmation, our daily lives are consecrated, through the indwelling Spirit, to proclaim, reveal, and witness to God’s kingdom through our prayers, Eucharist, charity, and especially our daily work.

Doing our work well

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that the hosts of heaven and earth will sing, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

When workers conserve raw materials instead of wasting them, that is co-conservation. When workers change raw materials into something that is useful to people, that is co-creation.

Workers who make crutches, crucifixes, or build houses transform raw materials that God created into products that benefit others.

Workers who grow crops, wait on tables, work with computers, make movies, or prepare meals should be proud because their quality work benefits others. Khalil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.”

Respecting others

In Genesis 1:27-8, it says, “God created us male and female. In God’s image he created them.” If we deeply believe that others are created in God’s image, we are more likely to respect them at home, work, and where ever we are.

In The Spirituality of Work, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, slaves did manual work. Freemen did not. Strenuous and backbreaking work was seen as beneath the dignity of free people and therefore expected of slaves.

“The ancient Jewish world answered that with a work ethic flowing from their relationship with God. Creation was valued, developed, and worked to meet the needs of everyone in the community. There was no shame in hard work; rather, work was honorable and honored.”

Mary cleaned, cooked, and worked for her family and others. Jesus worked in Joseph’s carpenter shop. By the sweat of his labor, he raised work to a higher level of dignity.

On Labor Day, let’s pray that the jobless, single and married, find work that sustains them and their families, nurtures their children, and contributes to the common good.

May Labor Day help us find joy and satisfaction in our work by recalling that we are co-creators with God and stewards of God’s creation.

May we praise and thank God through our Christ-like relationships with co-workers, employers, or employees.

Finally, may we enjoy a renewing, fruitful Labor Day!

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.