Homily on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, May 1, 2020
Work makes the human person similar to God, because with work man is a creator, capable of creating, of creating many things; also of creating a family to raise. The human person is a creator, and creates through work. This is his vocation, and it says in the Bible that “God saw all He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen 1:31). That is, work had goodness within itself and creates the harmony of things – beauty, goodness – and involves man in everything: in his thought, his actions, everything. Man is involved in work. It is man’s first vocation: to work. And this gives dignity to man. The dignity that makes him resemble God. The dignity of work.
Throughout history we have read about the brutality inflicted on slaves: they were brought from Africa to America – I think of that history that touches my own land – and we say, “What barbarism!” But there are many slaves today too, many men and women who are not free to work; they are forced to work in order to survive, nothing more. They are slaves: it is forced labour. It is forced labour, unjust, ill-paid, and which leads men and women to live with their dignity trampled underfoot. There are many, many throughout the world. Many.
Every injustice inflicted on a person who works tramples on human dignity; and also the dignity of the one who does this injustice. It lowers the level and we end up with that tension that exists between a dictator and a slave. Instead, the vocation that God gives us is so good: to create, to re-create, to work. But this can be done when the conditions are right and the dignity of the person is respected.