Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker – May 1, 2020

This day finds us focusing upon two figures in salvation history who were so important in the life of Jesus:  Mary, Jesus’ and our Mother, and Saint Joseph.  …  Later this afternoon, we will join with faithful from throughout our country and Canada during these most challenging days to consecrate our Church to Mary.  And now, during this noon-time Mass, we celebrate the time-honored Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker.

The two scripture passages proclaimed this afternoon, as different as they may seem to be one from the other, focus upon the nature of today’s commemoration and remind us of the great dignity and value of human work, when engaged with the gift of faith and understood through the selfless offering of Jesus’ life and example.

In the Gospel passage from Saint Matthew, in one of the moments when Jesus returns to his town, to Nazareth, and speaks in the Synagogue, his fellow townspeople react to his words by asking themselves the question: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (13:55). Jesus comes into our lives, being born of Mary by the power of God.  But he is immediately immersed into a family setting with Saint Joseph, his legal father who cares for him and teaches him his trade.  Jesus learns the carpenter’s craft from Joseph in his workshop in Nazareth, sharing with him the commitment, effort, difficulties and satisfaction of every day that are associated with his work.  Jesus’ embrace of a trade reminds us of the dignity and importance of work in our lives.

And in our first reading taken from the Old Testament book of Genesis, we’re reminded that God entrusted to man and woman the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work.

The words of the scriptures proclaimed today captured best in these words of Saint John Paul II in his encyclical Laborum Exercens, in which he states, “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work.”

During these challenging weeks in which we have confronted the pandemic that has enveloped our world, we’ve reflected upon so many different realities that have impacted our lives.  This day, in which we focus upon the dignity of those who work, affords us a moment to consider all those selfless workers who have set aside their own comfort and well-being to use the gifts and talents that they have been given and have nurtured for the sake of others.

  • Doctors, nurses and countless health care workers and aids who labor for untold hours in hospitals, nursing facilities and homes to not only care for broken bodies but who seek to provide consolation to wounded, lonely spirits.
  • First responders – police, fire-fighters, EMTs, and so manty others – who respond life-threatening situations in the midst of this crisis.
  • Scientists and technicians and all those working feverishly to create a vaccine and treatments that will help to stem the tide of this deadly virus.
  • Workers in grocery stores, pharmacies and other entities that provide essential, life-giving services, even as they put their own lives on the line.
  • Care-givers, clergy, counselors and so many others who risk their own well-being to reach out to those confronted by pain, uncertainty and fear.
  • Volunteers who set aside their own convenience and comfort and expend their time and effort for the well-being of others.

Let’s hold these generous and selfless souls in our hearts and prayers.

And let us also lift up in prayer the millions of our brothers and sisters in our country and around the world who no longer have the benefit of work as a result of this pandemic – all those who are unemployed and grieve their inability to provide well for themselves and their families.  Let us pray that very soon, they will once again be privileged to fulfill their God-given right to work and to participate in God’s plan for all of creation.

Brothers and sisters, for whatever situation or circumstance in which we find ourselves this day, may we give thanks for all who provide for us so selflessly.  And may we pray – with a deep sense of trust in God’s promises – for an end to this time of pain and suffering, that God’s mercy and peace will once again reign in our world and in our hearts.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!