Every human being likes to be respected, not for any title or accomplishment, but because we are created in the image and likeness of God. Labor Day is the day we can be proud of what we do, and respect others for their great service. Pope Francis pointed out, "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. . . . It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's own nation."
After Labor Day, schools are open; it seems like we are more active, and society is more engaged and busy. It is an opportunity for us to pray for each one of us, our labor, whatever we do. It is also a special moment to pray for our children and youth, those who are going back to school. That’s their labor: to study well. Let us pray for them, their families, and their teachers.
We are back from summer, a relaxed time, to the active and vibrant beginning. It is the time to start something new. I read in an article about William Glasser who developed a method of “reality therapy” which focuses on changing our behavior patterns. He calls it “positive addiction,” and gave the examples of jogging and meditation. Beginning either of these or any new discipline is difficult. As we continue jogging or meditating, it becomes easier. If we stick with it, it becomes a healthy addiction that we simply cannot seem to do without.
It is true with our spirituality as well. For example, going to Mass, or saying a daily prayer and so on. An ancient, nameless, wise person said: “The act is the parent of the habit; the habit is the parent of the virtue.” Perseverance is key. Persevere through the hard/severe stuff to habitually praying, doing good, and attending mass.
We are back to the Gospel of Mark from John. We see in the reading, the Pharisees are scandalized that Christ’s disciples “took food with unclean hands" (Mk 7.2). The first thing to note is that Jesus does not teach at all to disobey the law. He teaches to give more importance to the dispositions of the heart rather than to the superficial gestures and rites. On one hand, Jesus invites us to follow the Commandments and on the other hand, He shows that "purity" is not a matter of washed hands or lips purified by rituals, but is a matter of the heart.
Jesus emphasizes that unclean or impure are not external things, but the bad actions and intentions that came from a heart bad and away from God. God does not exist where there is no heart because it is distracted or closed in fear. How to return the heart to God? How to approach him?
We approach God "with the frequent purification of alms, tears and the other fruits of justice that make the heart and the body pure in order to participate in the mysteries of heaven." (St Bede the Venerable). Jesus came to tell us that no law, big or small, has meaning if it is not accompanied by love and if it is not consumed in love. Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus who offered himself for us and won eternal life for us. From every Mass we send out to follow in his footsteps, to live the broken and shared love. It is not easy, but let us persevere and get into a healthy addiction.