Today we celebrate one of my very favorite saints, Saint Joseph. You might be thinking, didn’t we already celebrate his feast day this year? And the answer to that would be yes, absolutely! The feast – or rather the solemnity – of Saint Joseph (it’s a solemnity because he’s a very special and important saint), is on March 19th. But today we celebrate the memorial of the very same Saint Joseph, this time because he is the patron saint of workers – people who work!
And that, quite frankly, is all of us. We all have work to do, don’t we? We have our schoolwork and our chores. We may have to work on a sport or a musical instrument or develop one of our talents in some way. And then there are our parents. They may go to work, so that they can earn money for the family, and so that people who depend on them can thrive. They also work in our homes, taking care of you, and making the home a place that’s comfortable for the family. They cook and clean and all those things that are part of a parent’s life.
So all of us work. And sometimes work is great. Maybe it’s exciting, maybe it helps us learn new things, maybe it allows us to use our talents in a special way. But sometimes work isn’t so exciting: sometimes work is, well, work and it makes us wish we can do something else with our time – anything else! For some people, work can also be oppressive: maybe it’s not work they like to do and maybe it doesn’t help them care for their families enough. There’s all sorts of work out there.
But Catholic teaching on work is that it is always supposed to be part of the creative work of God. Our first reading paves the way, doesn’t it? This reading is from the end of the story of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis. Here, God has just finished creating everything there is, and as his last, most splendid creation, creates human beings: male and female, famously, Adam and Eve. Everything he has created is good, and now God gives that goodness to the man and woman and charges them to keep on creating with him: “Be fertile and multiply,” he says to them, “fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”
Our work, all of it is a sharing in the creative activity of God. Our Gospel today shows us that even Jesus himself was a worker: he was the carpenter’s son (that carpenter would be Saint Joseph!), and Jesus was not ashamed to be known that way. The people of the time took offense at this, because they thought the Messiah wouldn’t have to be someone who was a laborer. But they had it all wrong, because work was something that God did in the beginning, and continues to do all the time. When we work with faithfulness, we are part of God’s creating power!
So for all of this, we have the intercession and patronage of Saint Joseph, who was a worker, a carpenter, and knew all the blessings and drudgeries of labor. We should always look to him when work is hard or when we don’t have work, so that he might intercede for us. And when work is great, we should join with him in giving praise to God who gives us the blessing of work. And so let us pray:
maker of heaven and earth,
we praise you for your glory
and the splendor of all your creation.
Bless us as we continue to do our work,
and bless all that we do for you.
Help us to carry out all our activities
for your honor and glory
and for the salvation of your people.
Through the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker,
guide us in all we do,
and help us build your kingdom
and one day, come together to eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord.