All these rely on their hands,
and all are skillful in their own work. 
Without them no city can be inhabited 

Today we gather in prayer as a start to our celebration of Labor Day. Labor Day is a rightful national tribute to the impact of workers on the strength and prosperity of our country. That is no more evident than in this year of pronounced challenge.

The very first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union. 

The Labor movement, through many trials, even attacks that resulted in the death of workers – remember just for instance the thirty killed in the 1894 Pullman Strike (my grandfather was a Pullman car painter) and the Lattimer massacre in Hazelton, Pennsylvania with the violent deaths of at least 19 unarmed striking immigrant miners in September 1897 – has stood strong in its advocacy for workers and their absolute right to fair wages and overtime, benefits, periods of rest, and so much more rightfully due.

Times of challenge call people of good faith together, in community, to stand beside each other and to do all things necessary, even to the sacrifice of their lives, so that their brothers and sisters might be treated equitably. So too in this year of challenge. 

As we celebrated last year, who would have thought that the work of those who are so devalued by their employers would hold the key to our survival? Grocery workers (I was a member of U.F.C.W., the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, when I worked at Tops Markets as a teen), delivery personnel, government workers, warehousers, janitorial staff, health care workers, especially nurses who bear the brunt of the work, manufacturing workers, the United Trades, and so many others. We thank God for them and we thank them for their work! We remain in the midst of this crisis and our Labor Unions are again in the forefront, fighting to ensure worker safety.

The Book of Sirach takes a walk through the various trades: the artisan, smith, and potter and by way of example tells us that they are key to our very survival as a community, city, and a nation. We depend on labor. We depend on the worker. Their hands and skillful work are the basis for the statement: Without them no city can be inhabited. Scripture fulfilled in our current crisis, for without the grocery, delivery, warehouse, janitorial, health care, and manufacturing worker – we would fall apart as society. No city could be inhabited.

This lesson, and all of God’s lessons on labor are foundational to the work of the Christian and the Christian Church. As St. Paul admonishes us, we must build with gold, silver, and precious stones, the things that will last, on the foundation of Christ.

When our Church was organized in 1897, our first Bishop and all its clergy and people united to fight for fair wages and proper treatment of workers. We did not fight just for the sake of fighting, rather because God demands justice for His people. God demands unity of action among believers to protect the rights and dignity of people. God’s call is for His people to be lifted up, to be given the opportunity to grow and become.  Our Church’s Creed states the following:

I BELIEVE that all peoples as children of one Father, God, are equal in themselves; that privileges arising from differences in rank, from possession of immense riches or from differences of faith, sex and race, are a great wrong, for they are a violation of the rights of man which he possess by his nature and the dignity of his divine origin, and are a barrier to the purposeful development of man.

I BELIEVE that all people have an equal right to life, happiness and those ways and means which lead to the preservation of existence, to advancement and salvation, but I also believe, that all people have sacred obligations toward God, themselves, their nation, state and all of humanity.

We had to bear witness to what we profess; purposes shown us by the Divine Master and Savior, Jesus Christ Who Himself was a tradesman.

We stood with workers in the face of abusive business practices, whether in the mines and steelworks of Pennsylvania, the rail yards, grain mills, steel and chemical factories of Buffalo, the auto-works of Detroit, or the great nexus of transportation in Chicago. We called for collective ownership of the means of manufacture. For this we were called communists and socialists. Our first Bishop was investigated by the FBI; you can request his file. That did not and will not deter us from building on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver, and precious stones, those things that will last.

Our work continues today and indeed must expand. The accumulation of wealth by the few while my neighbor suffers is unconscionable. The cries of those whose wages are stolen reach to the Throne of God, and we must act to stop that abuse. So many of our brothers and sisters suffer in an economy harmed by the current crisis. We must fight together for the sustainment of benefits so needed so that when we reopen, we are ready to get to work.

In doing this work we build up heavenly treasure for we support the dignity of each person and their opportunity for advancement.

This Labor Day, we honor all workers, from the front line, to those struggling for a fair wage and a safe workplace, to those striving to find a good job. In honoring and praying for them we resolve to set once more into the fight for worker justice and human dignity.

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This month we celebrate that Solemnity unique to our Holy Church, the Solemnity of Brotherly Love. I personally love being part of a Church that pays special attention to the idea of mutual love and care. This Solemnity didn’t just show up, nor was it established just to pay lip service to the concept of brotherly love. The Solemnity comes out of the real life experiences of our earliest founders. In 1906 a Special Holy Synod needed to be convened because events would call us to action. What to do in the face of words of hate, physical attacks, and widespread discrimination? The Holy Synod chose to do what was holy, what Jesus called us to do. The Holy Synod did not result in declarations of war, counter-plots, counter- attacks, or calls for discrimination and hatred toward attackers. The Holy Synod rather made a declaration of love. They resolved to love even in the face of hate, to love in the face of what we might disagree with, to love in the face of attack. We were not only to turn the other cheek, but to love and pray for our attackers. A man wanted to justify what he was doing, the way he chose to live, the words he chose to speak, (today, the postings he chose to make), so he asked Jesus: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus gave him a choice. We have choices to make just like that man did. Let us listen to Jesus and chose to love above all, to hold our words, and to act and speak in love no matter what is hurled at us.

So Much Happening. September is jam packed with events and opportunities. A special Holy Mass on Labor Day offered for the intention of all workers, organized labor, and worker justice. A prayer service in commemoration of the 19th Anniversary of 9/11/2001. The Solemnity of Brotherly Love. Back to Church Sunday where we take the time to invite and to recognize we are stronger together.

September’s Newsletter also covers the achievements of our youth in Music Scholarships and at the Kurs Camp. There is a reflection on the use of words – which have power to build up and to destroy, and a reflection on voting with an informed conscience. There is even a to-do list and … what if you were asked to spend 80 minutes?

Read about all it in our September 2020 Newsletter.

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

Come join us at 10am on Labor Day, September 7th for a Holy Mass offered for the intention of all workers, organized labor, and worker justice. We have masks and hand sanitizer available if you forget yours.

Holy Name of Jesus, 1040 Pearl St. Schenectady.

He
provides!

A bountiful rain You showered down, O God, upon Your inheritance; You restored the land when it languished; Your flock settled in it; in Your goodness, O God, You provided it for the needy.

Welcome and happy Labor Day weekend! This weekend offers us an excellent opportunity to focus on God’s provision and what we, as Christians, and as a nation, do with His provision.

Our verse of focus is taken from Psalm 68. Biblical scholars, those who slice and dice original language, verse structure, the paradigms that existed at the time something was written have often opined that Psalm 68 is one of the most difficult Psalms to understand. Yet to us, the ordinary reader, the Psalm seems pretty straightforward.

The Psalm begins with a prayer for God to arise, and recounts what happens to God’s enemies and to His favored righteous. As a result of God’s action, the righteous rejoice, they sing praises. God defends and provides, no one is lonely or a prisoner.

The Psalmist recounts God’s saving history. He praises God again saying: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, Who daily bears our burdens. He calls on God again to save, to rescue. Confident in God’s rescue and provision, he again calls the people to praise.

We can imagine historians and scholars looking at the paradigm of our times 3,064 years from now. They would say that our times are the most difficult to understand. Yet the ordinary reader would say, it is not difficult to see what was going on. A nation of success and riches failed to provide avenues of advancement for its workers. Wages were stolen by the rich, justice was not done through a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of a nation. The people cried out, suffered, but were not heard by their brothers and sisters. Those who traveled from afar, seeking refuge were turned away.

On this Labor Day weekend let us begin. Ask the Lord to arise again to scatter and defeat those who work to thwart justice. Let us pray that this Labor Day will mark the rising of the Christian people who have a God of power and might. May our words and work be a bountiful rain. Let us restore the landfrom its languish. Following God, we “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Getting to
work.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Tomorrow we celebrate Labor Day. Our Holy Church has a long history of support for the Labor movement. Our founders were in tune with the struggles faced by working men and women. They experienced the reality of exploitation by the powerful moneyed interests of our nation. Bishop Hodur spoke out for the respect that was due workers, for fair treatment, payment of proper wages, and a fair share of the profits they produced. He advocated for the same kind of democracy in industry that was part of our Church. All worked against selfish interest and for the collective good of the community.

It would be one thing to advocate for workers from self-interest as an ends, but we well know that advocacy for the rights of workers and for the community comes from and is centered in our love for Jesus’ way of life.

As we see in today’s gospel, Jesus’ healing takes physical form. He works to make the deaf hear and the mute speak. In John 9:5-7 we see Jesus again healing physically: “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

St. Paul reminds us that we cannot forego justice toward the weak, the downtrodden, the worker. We are not to make distinction, but look to the collective good of all – because Jesus showed no partiality: show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Our faith in Jesus requires that we work faithfully for the collective good. We must be unafraid of working to renew the world – to help those deaf to faith to hear; to help those who fear proclamation to cry out; to open streams of the life giving waters to the entire world; and to show no partiality, treating all as equal before God.

Happy Labor Day

labor-day-eight-hours

Almighty and everlasting God, by Whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before Thee for all estates of men and women who labor and seek justice for workers, that each in their vocation, ministry, and labor may truly and godly serve our society to Thy greater glory and his own sanctification and salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Youth Sunday, and Labor Day

Sacredness-of-Work

A call to be
changed.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Today we celebrate a call to be changed, to offer ourselves to God in all we do, and in doing so to make His kingdom a reality.

How will we make this change real? How will we respond and get to work? What will we do to be transformed into people completely focused on carrying out God’s will for humanity?

Our Holy Church has designated this Sunday as Youth Sunday. Our youth will be returning to school. They will study and grow in knowledge so that they may take their place in society, contributing their work and effort – but to what end?

If their studies are self-focused, if they are taken up without due consideration of God’s call to be changed and to change the world, they will only make their lives small and self-serving. They may achieve earthly success, but in the process lose their souls. If however, their study and growth remain focused on God’s call to change and affect change in accord with His call, their lives will be glorious and complete. They will use what they have gained to come into union with God and to carry out His will. We must help them by our example, prayer, and support. Our duty is to continually assist them in realizing that everything they learn and do is a gift from God and requires a response to His call to change.

This weekend we also celebrate Labor Day. Our work and labor must also been seen in light of the call to be changed and change the world. Paraphrasing our organizer, Bishop Hodur: ‘The time will come when our heroes emerging from the homes of farmers and laborers will sweat and sacrifice not for kings or the rights of the privileged or a single class, but will battle and work for freedom and the rights of man. Let us gather and strive to be first in good and last in wrong. Then shall we bring ourselves, our nation, and the whole world closer to happiness and salvation.’

We are thus called to change ourselves and the world, to transform life away from the money-driven values of this world to the bringing of the kingdom of God.

We are called to make change real in the lives of our youth and in our lives. This is true worship: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” Do not live the status quo. It is not enough! Jesus put His body on the line for us. So we must put our lives on the line, changing them for Him and working for the coming of His kingdom.