Monday, September 5, 2011
It is hard to believe that the 14th of this month will mark the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens, On Human Labor. His Holiness begins this letter by addressing the fundamental relationship between work and the human person. He returns to the command God have us from the beginning to go forth and subdue the earth, and reminds us that work is not merely something we must do to earn a living, but is essential for us as human beings. "Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes 'more a human being'."
He calls to mind the link between work and the dignity of the human person.
As we continue our struggle with the present economy it seems to me that now is a good time for us to return to the teaching of John Paul II, and his predecessors. At times we need to be reminded that the human being must remain the central focus not only of our prayer but of our policy. Business, profits, the economy as a whole exist not as ends in themselves but must always be viewed with an eye toward the human being. Otherwise we risk falling into what he calls " the violation of the dignity of human work: either because the opportunities for human work are limited as a result of the scourge of unemployment, or because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family."
"The word of God's revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator...."
As we rest from our labor this day,
may those of us have work be truly grateful,
may those without work soon find work,
and may those charged with oversight keep always in mind
the basic human need to work and the fundamental god-given rights of those workers.