By Marge Fenelon/National Catholic Register
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 28-30)
Hands down, that’s one of my favorite Bible verses.
It’s my go-to when I’m feeling frazzled and run down (which happens more often than I’d like to admit). It soothes me and helps me to re-focus on the real source of strength and meaning of my life — Jesus Christ.
As I write this, the U.S. moves into Labor Day Weekend with Monday, Sept. 5 being “the” day — Labor Day.
Generally, it marks the last shindig of summer and folks take to their patios and local parks for games and grilling. If you’re into time-honored fashion etiquette, it’s the last time you’re allowed to wear white shoes, slacks, or skirts without meeting with looks of disdain. Traditionally, it’s an annual national tribute to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the Department of Labor.
There’s an ongoing debate as to the actual founder of the holiday — whether it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor or Matthew Maguire, machinist and secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
Regardless, one of them (perhaps both of them?) came up with the idea and it gained government recognition with the instituting of municipal ordinances in 1885 and 1886.
Thus, Labor Day was born, pun intended.
There is a small part of me that wonders if Jesus might have had Labor Day in mind at least somewhat when he spoke his oft-quoted verse:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I think of it this way:
Granted, Labor Day is a secular holiday and, on the surface has nothing to do with religion. But, who is it that gives us the strength and know-how to do our work in the first place?
Without God’s grace and help, we could not accomplish a single thing. In fact, without him, we wouldn’t even exist. No tradesman, educator, healthcare professional, administrator, salesperson, secretary, merchant, soldier, sailor, religious, clergyman, dad, mom, brother or sister could manage a minute of labor without God willing it so and supplying the means by which to accomplish each task.
Plainly said, Labor Day belongs to God.
At least in our hearts and homes if not out on the streets.
It’s good — and even essential — to take a day of rest from our labors. It’s good to honor those who have worked hard for centuries to build up this country with their labors. It’s good to have a day on which families enjoy time relaxing together. That’s what Labor Day is all about.
It’s also good to take a day to give thanks to God for the ability to labor, whether that’s at a paying job, working around the house, or fulfilling family and church responsibilities.
No matter what you do, you do it because God has given you the ability to do so. And, when you “over-do so,” he offers you a place in his heart to unburden, rest, and regain strength.
For his yoke is easy, and his burden light.