thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Friday of the Third Week of Easter
St. Joseph the Worker
readings may be found here
On May 1st, communist regimes celebrate “May Day.” There are likely to be any parades this year, but I always feel a sense of sadness at communist celebrations of workers. It is such a cruel joke to claim that workers experience justice in such countries where they really become servants to the communist party and the elites that control the party. If any of those workers have the temerity to question their rulers, they will learn the truth of those regimes in a prison camp or worse. The sad toll of suffering, oppression, and mass murder continues even today.
On May 1st, Catholics celebrate St. Joseph the Worker. We celebrate the dignity of work, of workers, and of every human person – a dignity given freely by God and not defined by ideology or state power.
In the example of humble Joseph and in the readings today we learn a fundamental lesson about the Christian life and about what it means to be human. Ideologies and totalitarian regimes exercise the will to power – they dominate, control, and exploit. God’s power, the power of Love, serves the good of the other, recognizing that dignity and freedom that belongs to every person.
In the Bread of Life discourse here in the Gospel of John we see the truth of God’s way of love revealed in Jesus. He Who is truly powerful gives Himself as Bread for the world. He teaches us that we become ourselves when we forget ourselves, we possess ourselves when we give ourselves away. This same truth emerges in the account of Paul’s conversion. When Paul sets out for Damascus, he is a violent ideologue determined to use coercive violence against those he sees as enemies. After his conversion, Paul remains a passionate man, but now he is a man who serves others and seeks to convince by words rather than force. And St. Joseph, in his humble and faithful care of Mary and Jesus offers an example of a man who has given himself for others.
On this May 1st, I invite us to pray for those who suffer oppression by totalitarian governments, to pray that the unemployed find work, to pray that men and women of good will recognize the dignity of workers and seek just wages and safe working conditions, to pray for all those who work in this crisis at personal risk for the sake of others, and to pray that all of us may live this truth of compassion and love for one another: the gift of self.