In the United States of America, Labor Day is acknowledged as a national holiday in which President Grover Cleveland signed the act into law in 1894 (https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history).
From scripture, we are reminded of God’s plan and work in the creation narratives with the role that man plays toward this goal.
Gen. 2:3 “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
Gen. 2:5: …there was no field shrub on earth and no grass on the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground.”
Gen. 3:19 “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken…”
It is oftentimes easy for us Christians to lack empathy and find meaning in the dignity of our labor. Do we simply work for a paycheck, for our own prestige, or vainglory? As 1 Cor 12:20 reminds us there are many parts but the same body regarding imagery about the various tasks and talents God has given to us in building up the one body. So to is our labor from the lowly office clerk in a cubicle to the person sweeping the floors. Our work has meaning and dignity not just from our labor, but from our interactions made with others in which we are made in His image. In Friends Of God, St. Josemaría Escrivá states that “in our inner life, in our external behavior, in our dealings with others, in our work, each of us must try to maintain a constant presence of God…(Friends of God Homilies, Scepter Publishers, Princeton NJ 1981, p.23)
The earliest monastic tradition and motto of the Benedictines of Ora et labora or prayer and work is also a great reminder of what labor means for us as Christians. Joan Chittister, OSB describes Benedictine spirituality in this manner in which work doesn’t define the Benedictine charism. She states that a Benedictine quest and single minded search for the Divine is what defines such a vocation where “creative and productive work are simply meant to enhance the Garden and sustain us while we grow in God (p. 214).” “In today’s culture in which people are identified more by what they do than what they are, this is a lesson of profound importance. Once the retirement dinner is over and the company watch is engraved, there has to be something left in life that makes us human and makes us happy or life may well have been in vain (pgs. 214-215).” (Chittister, Joan, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality For The 21st Century, Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1992).
The noontime & evening bell and recitation of the Angelus prayer is a good tradition to take up as our labor should always be mindful of the sanctification for which God glorifies us (see history of the Angelus https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/short-history-of-the-angelus-9114). After all, Mary’s fiat and perfection at saying yes to God’s work of bringing forth our Savior & Lord Jesus is a great prayer devotion to practice…
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Let us give thanks to the Lord God this day for the dignity and sanctity of our labor. As Paul so eloquently reminds us of in his communication to Timothy, so to can the verse be applied to us where “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil & bring us to life everlasting. Amen.