4 Sep 2011
“Love does no evil to the neighbour; hence, love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Rom. 13:10)
In the name …
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and that’s a good thing this year. The summer started with a tornado, while we were at the Youth Retreat an earthquake struck, and then last weekend was the infamous Hurricane Irene. So many of our neighbours were terribly affected by this gigantic storm: Farmers lost crops and even workable fields; houses were flooded; businesses were lost; not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people affected by closed roads and bridges, and by the lack of electricity for days on end. Maybe after all of this we should all be glad that Labor Day heralds the end of summer 2011.
I thought it was apropos that in the days leading up to Labor Day an article was published in Nature magazine showing the oldest evidence yet discovered of human tool-making. We have been a labouring people for at least the past 1.76 million years. After that amount of time, labour has become a part of our DNA. It’s part of how we define ourselves. We are a working people, and a respect for workers is the reason behind Labor Day. But Labor Day is a kind of strange holiday. There are no decorations, no cards or flowers, no fireworks or costumes. I wonder if the working-class is just too tired to party in this kind of economy. On Friday the government reported that unemployment is still uncomfortably high at over 9%, and that last month there was no net increase in jobs created. This means that young people are having serious difficulty entering the job force, and a lot of discouraged young people is not good for society as a whole. Plus, the ones already working must work ever harder with ever less job security because they’re afraid of how easy it would be to join the not-working. High unemployment is one thing; being unemployed is another. Unemployment is a terrible scourge that tears at people, families and society in more ways than just the economic because it’s part of how we define ourselves, and we now have millions of unemployed Americans.
This Labor Day Weekend as we gather in church we should realize that prayers are powerful, but so is community. When unemployment and the specter of becoming unemployed create tension from the smallest community of the family to the larger community of our whole nation, we have to be able to count on church even more. We need to make sure that this is a solid community of support regardless of what may be happening in the rest of our lives. Church has to be a foundation, a rock, an anchor. Church has to be a place of stability where people can come and find hope and also compassion.
We should be concerned about each other because this is really the only law of Christianity. “The one who loves another has fulfilled the Law,” says St. Paul to us today. And he bases this statement on the fact that if we love our neighbour then all of the “Thou shall not’s” fall into place. If we love, we will not steal. If we love, we will not hurt. But the Christian Law goes further than this. Our faith doesn’t expect us to only not hurt, our faith calls upon us to empathize with others, to appreciate their situation, to actually care about our neighbours. This is the fulfillment of the Law. We are by nature a working people after some 2 million years, and we are by the choice of our faith an empathetic people, a people who are called upon to care about each other. So when an already tough economic situation is worsened by flood waters seeping into people’s homes, swallowing up their farm fields, destroying their places of business, we are called to compassion and to community.
A couple of weeks ago we read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus said to Peter and to Peter alone, “‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’” (16:19) Now today, and just two chapters later in the same Gospel, we hear those same words from the lips of Jesus, but this time they are directed to the entire community of the church. Church often speaks about the authority given to Peter. We put up statues to him in our sanctuaries holding the keys of the kingdom. But that very same authority was shared by Jesus with the entire community of the church. “‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name,’” Jesus goes on to say, “‘there am I in their midst.’” (18:20) The community of the church is what brings Christ into our world. The community of the church speaks and acts as Christ. This is why Christianity’s law is to love one another. It’s not only what we are called to do; it’s what allows us to do it in the first place. It is our reason for being here, and it is how we are here. The mystery of church is that it is not only Christians; it is Christ. This teaching also needs to be proclaimed loudly.
A harsh summer may be coming to an end with Labor Day, but the holiday will not bring an end for all those who want to labour but who cannot find work in this faltering economy, to all of those who will be trying after Hurricane Irene to rebuild farms and businesses and to clean-out homes. Things will get better, but in the meantime we as the community of church and as Christ in the world must do what we can for our neighbours. This, as says St. Paul today, “is the fulfillment of the Law.” Let us work to build community, to strengthen the bonds that hold us together, sometimes to just be here so that when much of the rest of our lives may be in turmoil, we can have the sanctuary of church and of each other as a trusted place to turn to for support and encouragement, a caring community to help us through the recessions and the hurricanes of life. May this be our prayer this Labor Day weekend, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name …
Fr. Randolph Calvo