Today is Labor Day, a great national holiday, a day set aside for the American worker and to celebrate the ordinary citizen.
This day is meant to honor laborers, it is a day to honor work. It is meant to be a day of rest, repose and respite, but this year it is a day that we must acknowledge our collective anxiety as there are twenty million Americans unemployed, out of work and uncertain of our future.
I spent most of my life working in the hospitality sector. Now I am self-employed but my clients are mostly restaurants, this year many of my friends and colleagues have had to shutter their businesses, close their doors, cut their hours, reduce their staff change their business model to account for the global pandemic COVID-19.
There are millions of workers that have the day off this year who would rather be working. We have had too much time off, but the nation is not ready to reopen.
Our chief executive has abdicated the responsibility for managing this crises, preferring to pretend that it will go away on its own.
It will not.
Each of our fifty states has a different plan to handle the pandemic, some governors have followed the president’s example, abdicating their responsibility, putting it off on local governments at the county and municipality level. Some of these governors have taken even more draconian steps and signed orders that limit what local governments can do to protect their people and find a safe way to live, go to school, engage in commerce and move forward.
Today we count the number of dead at 190,000 and climbing.
On Memorial Day we were poised to cross the 100,000 threshold. Ninety thousand more Americans dies over the summer, and it did not have to be this way.
It does not have to be this way, but it will continue to be this way until we have leadership that acknowledges the scope of the emergency, and puts together a plan to manage the crises.
The economy will continue to struggle, the stock market notwithstanding, a million Americans will file new claims for unemployment every week, the unemployment rate will continue to hover around ten percent, Americans will not return to work for as long as the status quo remains the same.
The unemployed American worker needs relief. The House of representatives has passed a bill to provide. The Senate has opted not to address and the president is actively working against it.
We need the Hero’s act to pass to provide this relief, we need to keep those who are still working, working, we need it to help those who are not working return to work. We need it so that American families can keep a roof over their heads, keep the lights on, keep gas in the car, and keep food on the table
We need leadership, or we need a general strike!
Happy Labor Day my brothers and sisters, lets due the right thing!
We are one family and we are made to love one another, to care for one another, to be watchful and take steps to protect one another. This is what it means to be in community, to live together as a family, and this is what Ezekiel intends to convey.
However, today’s reading makes the mistake of promoting an image of God and God’s justice that deviates from the way Jesus followed and encouraged us to join. Ezekiel’s instinct is to circumscribe God’s love, making God a cruel judge and an executioner rather than a healer.
Consider this wisdom from the psalmist.
It is God who makes us well, who creates in us the possibility of wellbeing.
God is our wellbeing, but God is not a king, and there are no other gods.
All of creation belongs to God, all that is good and all that frightens us, everything comes from God and will redound to the good, ultimately.
It is good that we show our respect for the creator and to sing songs in praise of God, but remember, God is our loving parent, and God has prepared each of us for God’s blessing.
Listen to the apostle when he says that love is the law!
Let the knowledge of the law fill your heart, so that it governs you interpretation of it; love with justice, justice with mercy, love with respect, respect with caring.
Our hearts must always be focused on the other, knowing that God is present in the spirit of our neighbors.
You cannot lie and serve God at one and the same time.
The apostle tells us in the simplest of terms that the mission of the church is to announce the reconciliation. Everyone is reconciled in the loving embrace of God, God who created the universe. The members of the church are meant to be ambassadors of this good news.
The church is not, nor should it ever be a recruiting agency, with the purpose of signing up members for whom the reward is reconciliation. The reconciliation has already occurred, it occurred in Christ at the beginning of time.
The mission of the church is to proclaim it.
Consider the Gospel reading for today:
Always be wary of the scriptures that cast Jesus in the role of a litigator, a legislator, as the author the law code. These are the machinations of later generation, writing into the sacred text a justification for the authority they have usurped. They put words into the mouth of Jesus, making both him and themselves into liars.
This is the summary of the reflections Jesus gave on the law:
Love God with all your strength, all your heart and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
That is the whole of the law.
The ministry of Jesus was a ministry characterized by mercy. He said do not forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times, and if you go to prayer while there is a conflict between you and your sister or brother, go first to your sister or brother, resolve the conflict, and do not return to prayer until you do.
Every community has a duty to protect itself from dangerous people and predators. Jesus was not suggesting that we keep our doors open to violent, deranged and dangerous people…our hearts yes, but not our doors.
However, if the recalcitrant member of the community is just a stubborn person, or merely argumentative, if they are someone with a different understanding of the faith and the way, and they will not conform to the norms of the community…by all means treat them as Jesus would have treated a pagan or a tax collector, invite them dinner, sit down and eat with them, do not refuse them anything.
This is the way.
Do not believe the Church when it claims to have the authority to free people, or put them in chains, either here or in the world to come. The Church does not have that authority, the disciples did not have that authority. The claim to possess that authority is derived from fear, the fear of losing control over the communities they presided over.
Every single one of us possess the power to forgive, to forgive those who have done us harm, so that the harm they have done ceases to have power over us. We have the power to forgive ourselves…more importantly to accept the forgiveness of those we have harmed, so that our guilt does not continue to be a stain on us, and a determinant of our path in life.
We have both the power and the obligation as followers of the way to do so.
If You do not Speak to the Wicked Man, I Will Hold You Responsible for His Death
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name. If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life.’
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
Gospel Acclamation – John 17:17
Your word is truth, O Lord: consecrate us in the truth.
If your Brother Listens to you, you Have Won Back your Brother
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.
‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’