Labor Day: Doing what we were created for

Today’s readings: Genesis 1:26 – 2:3, Psalm 128, Matthew 6:31-34

I want you to know some of the evils of seminary. On Labor Day of every year I was in seminary, we were at school. Last year, we even had classes on Labor Day. The Academic Dean obviously didn’t let today’s Scripture readings permeate into his heart. But that’s another homily!

Today, we’ve gathered to celebrate and bless human labor. Human labor is a cornerstone of our society and our world, dating all the way back to the creation of the world, as today’s first reading shows us. Whatever we believe about the creation of the world, – that, too is another homily – we know that at its completion God sanctified the whole of it through rest. And that’s an important point that I think we maybe don’t get the way we should.

According to an article I read recently, 60 percent of Americans don’t plan to take a vacation any time in the next six months, the lowest rate since 1978. Last year, a study revealed that 36 percent of all US citizens don’t plan to use all their allotted days off. Those who do take vacations, the article said, increasingly find that they are sitting on the beach next to their laptops, palm pilots and cell phones. I guess their families won’t be coming with them!

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that this kind of thing is just crazy. Worrying about work isn’t going to add a single moment to our lifespan. In fact, it will more likely reduce them. We are told very clearly: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

We are certainly required to work hard and always give the best that we have to our employers or employees. That’s a matter of justice. It’s also a participation, the Church tells us, in the work of creation. Work is sacred and always has been, because, as the Genesis reading today shows us, work was instituted by God who told us to fill the earth and subdue it, having dominion over every living thing. We work because it is a sharing in what we were created for, the very imitation of God.

But there is that matter of balance. And we do have to step back and realize that God did indeed sanctify the whole of creation by blessing it with that seventh day, with that day of rest. And so we do our spiritual lives no favors when we ignore the commandment to observe the Sabbath through rest and worship. So much of our lives is consumed in labor; may we never fail to sanctify that labor by observing rest and worship.

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