Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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May 1, 2021
THE HARD-WORKING PEOPLE
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
I grew up among the hard-working people. The ones who showered after work. Their muscle and their sweat defined them. They worked in dangerous conditions. One never knew who might die in the process of forging metal, digging coal, or moving earth. The workers were surrounded by their families and friends. They worked together. These were the people who played as hard as they worked. Their excesses were something that somehow made us proud. They built a foundation long forgotten. Their history lives in my flesh. Their sweat nourishes my soul.
Every generation has its hard-working people. Its unsung heroes often go unnoticed until they cause trouble or somehow manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes they are as destructive as they are creative, timid as they are courageous, outrageous as they are faithful. They are more than survivors. They invite us to seize the day with guts no matter how deep the fear and uncertainty that often defines their lives.
I think of John’s Gospel and how abstract the interpretations of this Gospel have become for many. We read it as if it’s a philosophical thesis with the hard-working Jewish man from Galilee expounding on the perplexities of metaphysics.
Not only is he from Galilee but from a village most would go out of their way to avoid. The battle-torn, impoverished town of Nazareth was no place of fame or glory. The famous saying rings true, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Jesus ranked among the hard-working people who had no showers at the day’s end. Work was always hard but erratic. The wages taxed beyond belief so the greedy and powerful could build monuments to themselves on the backs of those who worked and lived by the sweat of their brow. He often confronted their corruption like a protester disturbing the peace. The more the powerful threatened him, the more prophetic he became. The blood of Amos and the sweat of Isaiah circulated in his soul.
Once again, as the Fifth Sunday of Easter rolls around. The Nazorean will share his insights concerning vines and branches (John 15). We will be enthralled by his parable, may be transformed by his word, but never will we forget his wisdom born of his labor in the fields.
I often thought the man from Galilee was like the people who lined up at the factories when I was a child. They, like he, spent a lot of time looking for work. As a “jack-of-all-trades,” he learned some things only hard-working people know.
Think about it for a moment. Jesus spoke about money and poverty, taxes and injustice, fish and life, bread and hope, wine and longing, sheep and commitment, vines and the finest wines. He knows some things only hands and heart can know. He partied hard (Matthew 11: 19), got a reputation (Luke 4: 37), touched the World (John 1: 9), and humbled himself (Philippians 2: 8). You might hear his wisdom on the lips of the waitress working to put her kid through school. You might feel his heart beating as you stop for coffee at a truck stop. You might experience his presence as you march in a protest rally for justice. You might sense his love in the hand of a nurse who comforts the sick and dying.
Plunge your hands into the soil, prune your vines, build the backyard shed in the heat of the day, and play with the children until you can taste the sweat and savor the sweetness of God. Keep on rising, Holy Community, there’s work to be done.