(Vatican Radio) A society that “does not pay a just wage”, that “does not give work” to people; a society that “that only looks to its balance books, that only seeks profit” is unjust and goes against God. It is work – not power, not money, not culture – that gives men and women a sense of dignity. By stripping them of work, society strips them of their God given dignity. Emer McCarthy reports: http://media01.radiovaticana.va/audiomp3/00369662.MP3
This was the focus of Pope Francis reflections at Mass Wednesday May 1st. The Holy Father marked the feast of St Joseph the Worker together with children and single mothers who are guests at the “Il Ponte” center for solidarity based in the port town of Civitavecchia north of Rome. Mass was concelebrated by the man who founded and runs the center for these families in need, Fr. Egidio Smacchia.
Pope Francis commented on the Gospel chosen for the feast day, from Mathew chapter 13, which recounts Jesus’ return to his hometown Nazareth where he is called “the carpenter’s son”. Joseph was a worker and Jesus learned to work with him. In the first reading we read that God works to create the world. This “icon of God worker – said the Pope – tells us that work is something more than just earning our daily bread”:
“Work gives us dignity! Those who work have dignity, a special dignity, a personal dignity: men and women who work are dignified. Instead, those who do not work do not have this dignity. But there are many who want to work and cannot. This is a burden on our conscience, because when society is organized in such a way that not everyone has the opportunity to work, to be anointed with the dignity of work, then there is something wrong with that society: it is not right! It goes against God himself, who wanted our dignity, starting from here. ”
Pope Francis continued, that dignity is not found in power, money, or culture. But in work, in honest work, because today many social, political and economic systems have made the choice to exploit the person in the workplace.
“Not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God! How many times – how many times – have we read in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ …. A headline that impressed me so much the day of the Bangladesh tragedy, ‘Living on 38 euros a month’: this was the payment of these people who have died … And this is called ‘slave labor!’. And today in this world there is slavery that is made with the most beautiful gift that God has given to man: the ability to create, to work, to be the makers of our own dignity. How many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in this situation because of these, economic, social, political attitudes and so on … “.
The Pope then quoted the reflections of a rabbi from the Middle Ages on the episode of the Tower of Babel, of how precious bricks were at that time:
“When a brick accidently fell, it was a tremendous problem, a scandal: ‘But look what you’ve done!’. But if one of those people building the tower fell: ‘Requiescat in pace!’ And they let him be … the person was more important than the brick. This is what the medieval rabbi told and this is what happens now! People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power. What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person; this dignity of labor. But today the figure of St. Joseph, of Jesus, of God who work – this is our model – they teach us the way forward, towards dignity. ”
Today – the Pope said – we can no longer say what St. Paul said: “He who will not work, will not eat,” but we have to say: “He who does not work, has lost his dignity”, because “he cannot find any opportunities for work”. On the contrary: “Society has stripped that person of dignity.”
Pope Francis concluded: Today, it would do us good to listen to the voice of God, when he spoke to Cain, saying: “Cain, where is your brother?”. Today, however, we hear this voice: “Where is your brother who has no work? Where is your brother who is subjected to slave labor?. Let us pray, let us pray for all these brothers and sisters who are in this situation. So be it”.