St. Joseph the Worker
Scripture Readings: 1 Cor 5:1-8; Mt 13:54-58
“Is not this the carpenter’s son?” It always seems a little strange to me that those neighbors who were so familiar with the family of Jesus and could tick off all their names did not call Joseph by name. Obviously, they meant to put Jesus in his place by reminding him “where he came from.” But why not name Joseph? It seems to be a case of identifying someone by their work, by what they do, by the role they have in a regulated social world. The person dissolves in importance. It is their contribution to maintaining a functioning society that gives them worth. He is the carpenter’s son.
If anything, our culture has intensified a separation of the person from their work. The value of work is calculated by the profit it creates, by its exchange value. How much can you get for it? That is what it is worth. Worth can be estimated by the money it can demand. What is your currency here? What do you think is worth in an exchange? The worth of a person becomes determined by the worth of what he produces. The work no longer receives it value from the worker, but the worker’s worth depends on the product.
Jesus was known by his relationship to a carpenter. Pope Francis reminds us that “work puts us into relationship with the world around us.” That world is the world of nature, of material reality, of other people. The world of God. If we let it, our work may be totally confined to the reward or personal payment we receive. But that is a lack of faith, unbelief. He could not do many marvelous works there because of their lack of faith. It is faith which unveils the openness to relationships that work can entail. We are already embedded in a world of relationships that work brings to life. Benedict says that we return to God by the labor of obedience. Obedience is attention to the world of cooperation and mutuality that surround us. Our labor is obedience, as well as obedience is a labor. Our work is an offering which seeks to transform creation, the worker, and human life into a small foothold for the Kingdom of God. The Lord can do many mighty works here because of our belief.
Each day in the Eucharist, our prayer of offering expresses the heart of this dynamic of our labor: through your goodness we offer this bread and wine, fruit of the earth and work of human hands. It will become for us the Body and Blood of Christ.