1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Today is Labor Day in the United States. Different readings can be used for today’s Mass. I will reflect on the readings for ordinary time.
In the first reading Paul is reminding the Corinthian Christians about an obvious dynamic: one bad apple can spoil the whole barrelful. Yes, we are to be merciful and forgiving. But if the forgiveness is simply a cover up, pretending all is well, or turning a blind eye and ignoring what is wrong and immoral, then Paul’s criticism of the Corinthians to clear out the old yeast is appropriate.
On the other side of the coin of morality, Jesus infuriates the scribes and Pharisees because he heals a man whose right hand was withered. They accuse Jesus of being immoral since he healed (worked) on the Sabbath. For Jesus the Law was relative to what is good. Sometimes doing good can go against the letter of the law. What is legal is not always moral. In fact, in some situations following the law can be immoral for a Christian. To do the good sometimes transcends the law and may even contradict it.
In 1956, the Post Office made the first Labor Day commemorative-stamp. It was an image for that period of time. It showed the image of a large muscular man carrying a sledgehammer, a pick, a hoe, and an ax over his shoulder. His wife sat nearby showing a small child how to read. The words of the poet Carlyle in the lower left of the stamp announced, "Labor Is Life."
Labor is life! For the apostle Paul and for Jesus their work brought forth life. As we stand against what is immoral or have the courage to transcend the law for what is good and just, we labor for life. We continue the work of God’s creation today. Happy Labor Day.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.