We are only one week away from the day that some look forward to, and some dread. It is the day when my mother packed up our white pants and shoes, to be put away until next summer in order to avoid a fashion faux pas. It is our last free and restful day before we send our children back to school and begin the hectic schedules of after-school activities.
I have been thinking a lot about resting from our labors, so I searched to find out about Labor Day. What I found is that it started in 1882 in New York by union leaders as a celebration of hard working laborers. Eventually, following the Canadians’ lead, we started celebrating on the first Monday in September. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anything that told me why we have to put away all your white pants and shoes, so I will not be doing that this year!
We have had several readings at Mass that have talked about labor and taking a rest. After all, God did tell us to rest on Sundays. To me, I think the original “labor day” was mandated by God. Aren’t we supposed to rest on Sundays? Do we do that? I used to think our family did, but now I think we might be falling short. Even God took a day to rest. After six days, He saw how awesome and good His work was and rested. All we need to do is to read Genesis 2:2-3, which says, “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.” I know I am thinking against what our culture has become, but if God can rest why do we think our jobs and lives are so important that we cannot?
Our family has a rule that Sundays after Mass are for family. Now this doesn’t mean our daughters can’t have friends over, but we do have their friends stay for our Sunday evening meal and join us in prayer before the meal. We have found that their friends who have been to our house really like doing this with us. It really gives a sense of what is important to our family. However, recently a priest that I was listening to on the radio pointed out some ways that maybe our Sundays aren’t quite as restful as I thought.
In order to prepare those Sunday meals, many times I stop at the grocery store on the way home from Mass. This is almost a necessity during the school year. With hectic schedules during the week, sometimes it can’t be helped. What he pointed out wasn’t that I was not being restful, but that the employees that had to work at that store are not able to rest from their labor on Sundays. I had never looked at this side of it before. How many times do we stop for gas, groceries, or many other purchases on a Sunday? The answer to that is almost every Sunday. If someone is forced to work so the business I stop at is open, they don’t have their restful, labor-free day.
Ever attend a sporting event on a Sunday? Even with one daughter in Catholic school, we are still at her sporting events on Sundays. If, as Catholics, we schedule our children to play on a Sunday what are we telling the world about the importance of our faith? With the increased competitiveness of sports, we spend many weekends at sporting events trying to squeeze in time for Mass. Have you ever thought about all the people working at those tournaments who aren’t able to go to Mass or rest on Sunday? I never had before. I am thankful that I happened to be listening to that Catholic radio station on my way to Mass, and I was challenged to think of others.
Holidays are a day specifically set aside to rest from labor, but even on Labor Day many people will have to go to work. Many laborers won’t be given this day to rest. It is a day specifically meant to give them rest. People will be out shopping to get last minute supplies and clothes needed for school. The stores will all be open, and their employees will have to labor. Even worse is Thanksgiving. I remember how much fun it was when everyone had off on Thanksgiving Day to be with family, and then we would get up early on “Black Friday” to do some shopping. One of the best parts was meeting the men for breakfast after we had searched for bargains. Now stores open their doors on Thanksgiving, and many are staying open and not closing on Thanksgiving at all. When do those employees get a day to be with families? They had to work when everyone else had their day off to be together.
So, next Sunday, I urge all families to look at how you spend the day that is meant for rest. It really does require acting intentionally and counter-culturally, and some people may think it is strange that you set a day aside for worship and rest. However, next Sunday let Jesus take care of your work. He is ready to fill in for you and take care of your burdens. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
photo courtesy of: http://u21church.org/todays-word-matthew-11-28-30/