Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
Cathedral of St. Peter
1 May 2007
1. "God said: let us make man in our image, in our likeness." Beloved brothers and sisters, we have heard once more the greatest truth about the human person, the true column which bears up every human truth. Man is "in the image, the likeness of God." The human person possesses an immeasurable dignity for he has an original bond of likeness with his Creator. In the face of the human person shines a reflection of the same Divine reality.
The word of God also indicates what manifests and expresses the dignity of the human person. "Fill the earth; subject it and rule…over every living thing." Also, in the other Biblical account of creation, the same truth is taught. "The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden, so that he could cultivate it and care for it" (Gen. 2:15). It is work which reveals the singular dignity of man and distinguishes him from all other creatures. Therefore, an intimate connection exists between the dignity of the person and his labor. Labor bears in itself a particular sign of the proper preciousness of the person, and it is this particular sign that keeps us from considering him solely as a maker of production. The value, the "price" of human labor is not in the first place an economic characteristic, but an ethical one.
I would like to call attention to two facts that denote the scarce attention we can have to this particular nature of human labor.
The first is the phenomenon of deadly incidents on the job. Without fear of exaggeration, I join those who have described this as a true and proper massacre. It is a shameful fact of a civilized nation. My voice is small, but I must raise it and direct it at all those who in any degree have the responsibility of making labor safe. From those deaths comes a sense of injustice that must move us to our core.
The second is born from the necessity of respecting the right to work of disabled persons. Assuring these people labor is not fulfilling an act of charity, but is an act of justice. Non-observance of the law in this regard out of respect is a grave act for it constitutes the violation of a fundamental right of the human person.
This last reflection helps us understand the profound sense of the "right to work." In short, it denotes the right of every person – as it is his fundamental obligation – to make his humanity blossom, to develop it fully. Each of us is realized from the moment that he works, in the broad sense of "human operation." A society is not "good" that might distribute labor to those fit to work, and at the same time not help disabled persons to realize themselves, making them do without.
2. The Biblical reading which we have heard in the first reading leads us to a second reflection, of certain characteristics which are more general but not less important.
As we have just heard, Divine Revelation affirms at first, the dominion of man over all the land. "Fill the earth; subject it and rule…over all living things." These words have an immense importance. They say that all the resources contained in creation and that man can discover are at his use and directed to him.
Man is placed in creation to exercise a true sovereignty by means of his acts, his work.
All is of man, but insofar as he is "in the image and likeness of God." That is, all is of the human person, but the human person is of God. It is this essential relationship of man with God, which is necessary and cannot be renounced, that shapes the relationship of man with things. When the human person refutes his dependence on the Creator and tries to build a human existence as if it did not belong to the Lord, the relationship of man with things begun by labor is thus distorted.
It is that which has happened, and is happening in large measure in our Western culture. The result is that man today is felt always more threatened in his proper humanity from the results of his multiple activities. Or rather, a technical creation from man that risks devastating him in his humanity seems to be the principle act of the drama of our human life. In the end, this is the most disquieting question that a day of rest from work puts to us today: is justice, the fruit of human labor, this progress, the author and advocate of man’s work, truly redeemed for man, for his dignity? Is this "technocracy" an end to which we simply need to adapt ourselves, putting in it our salvation?
Today, the Church entrusts the response in the first place to prayer. She prayers with those who we have initiated in this Divine Liturgy. God has called man to cooperate with the work of shaping creation. Pray that man may be faithful to the responsibility with which he is being entrusted.
La traduzione, non rivista dal Card. Caffarra, è di Ryan Hilderbrand.