My grandfathers were these types of workers. One of them had a high school education (in Ireland), and the other dropped out of school before high school to work. Both were hard workers in the meatpacking houses of South Omaha, laborers (one eventually became a foremen), steady men who played by the rules as they understood them, who were raised in and practiced Catholicism their entire lives. They sometimes disagreed with bosses, politicians, and elected officials, but once decisions were made or elections were held, they obeyed those for whom they worked, or who led their country. I do not recall any instance where they questioned anyone who led their church.
Although they lived until I was in my mid 20s, I never talked with them about a lot of things, topics that in hindsight would have been interesting to pursue. One comes to mind today from the gospel reading. How would my grandfathers have reacted to a religious radical that upset the order that they found in their religion? How would these steady elders have responded when someone violated the norms of behavior that they had been taught should be followed without question? Would they have been sympathetic to the message of the upstart, or suspicious because the new preacher challenged longstanding traditions? Would they have understood the argument that He was making, that it was better to address a real human need than to blindly adhere to a tradition? Would they have been able to comprehend that in doing good on the sabbath this new prophet was actually giving greater glory to God than by “keeping the Sabbath holy” through ritual?
Paul encourages us to celebrate the feast with sincerity and truth. Isn’t Jesus saying the same thing when He asks whether it is better to save life on the Sabbath rather than to destroy it? Isn’t the life He is talking about saving our authentic spiritual life, and not some shadow that comes from disengaged obedience? It seems that the full message of Jesus is to be sincere, to follow the truth, and to save the lives of others, and by doing so save our own. In the words of the psalm, the path of Jesus will lead us to the justice of the Lord.
I loved my grandfathers. I think they were good men to tried to build good lives for themselves and their families. While I knew them when they were 60 (my age now), I didn’t know them then knowing what I know now. How much we could have learned from each other if my 60-year old person could have talked to their 60-year old reality!
And so my prayer today is in gratitude for the efforts of the workers among us who too often go unappreciated, for the grace to be sincere and true, and for the desire to save life rather than destroy it.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook