May Day, the great feast day of many labor movements, and it's made all the more relevant here in the United States this year by the increasing debate on immigration.
And for us Catholics it's the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, instituted by Pius XII in 1955 in an effort to show that the catholic church also cares about labor. This has been especially true since Leo XIII began the great documentary tradition of modern catholic social teaching, our "best kept secret."
Work is a complicated thing. On the one hand, it is meant to be humankind's great dignity, a sharing in the creative overflow of the goodness of God; this is the sense of the God of Genesis 1 who put our first parents in the middle of the garden to care for and cultivate the earth. On the other hand, work often gets mixed up with injustice and sin, and here we see the curse of toil and suffering of Genesis 3.
Many of us in the northern hemisphere are lucky enough to be able to support ourselves through work that is stimulating, interesting, and may even contribute to the common good. But today let's remember the injustices and the sufferings inflicted upon the workers who make our clothes and our food, and do so many other things that make our life possible. Part of the ease of our life is bought at the expense of theirs, and this is a great sin that many of us carry with us always.
We don't need to do anything to commit this sin. It is all around us. The moral odds are stacked against us without our even reflecting on it. So let's opt out of dehumanizing economies as much as we can, and try to create justice and human dignity wherever we happen to be.