Labor Day by Bob Wickizer

Labor Day
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Ecclesiastes 10:[7-11] 12-18; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8; Luke 14:1,7-14


As you enter the living quarters of the Jesuit priests at Boston College you pass from the foyer into a network of halls where above the entrance to the main hall you admire this ornate Italian metal work containing the Latin words ''Orare est Labore'' - To pray is to work. Today's Gospel teaching stands on its own almost without any need for elaboration. But on a holiday weekend where we honor the contribution of laborers in building our nation and in a larger sense the contributions of workers everywhere who have created history, what do our lessons tell us about labors? Where do we find Good News in this? And how does this mystical intersection of prayer and labor help us?

Not known for his tact and gentle words, the prophet Koholet in Ecclesiasticus tells us ''Sovereignty passes from nation to nation on account of injustice and insolence and wealth'' - on account of INJUSTICE, INSOLENCE and WEALTH! From the Babylonians in 2000 BC to the present day, history records the power struggles between the masses of the powerless workers and the handful of the powerful. Why have his words continued to be true over two thousand years? And what does this history of power struggles have to do with Jesus teaching us not to take the best seats at a banquet?

One aspect of this lesson about not taking the honored seats at a banquet has to do with the evils of classism or the need people have to create a pecking order putting one or a few at the top and everyone else at various steps going down to the bottom. The ordering of people into different social groups or classes is not unique to humans. Dogs, cats, birds, horses and most primates display very similar behaviors so that such behavior may seem to be pre-wired into the human brain. But then, much of the teachings of Jesus runs counter to such pre-wired behaviors as acquisition of things, lust, greed, envy, jealou ...


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