Gen 1:26—2:3 / Psa 90
Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?
Lest we denigrate the humble worker,
Let us this special day remember
God, our Lord and Almighty Maker
Was also once a lowly carpenter.
Coming to His hometown, Jesus began to teach the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)
“Familiarity breeds contempt” is a very common adage that aptly describes the scene in Nazareth, where the local folks took offense at the teachings of Jesus, and even at His wondrous works because they were familiar with Him – they knew He was merely the son of a common carpenter. Where did He get the authority to be teaching them these new concepts that seemingly set aside their traditional beliefs? They knew His mother Mary, and even heard of an old rumor that He was not really Joseph’s son. So why was it then that these people who thought they knew Jesus would come to reject Him? It was knowing about His humble origins that made them so prejudiced.
Prejudice is one of the most subtle sins that many of us may not be aware of, but is influencing our attitude towards others, especially those who do not share our beliefs or values, or have not had the privilege of education or spiritual formation. This is especially true in the case of the “privileged middle class” who are offended by the habits and activities of the working class. I was glossing over the comments of some readers responding to a news feature about an honest taxi driver who took the trouble to return the laptop and money that a passenger left in his cab. Although most of them commended the man’s integrity and example, a few commented that he only returned the package because the hotel where he picked up his passenger had his name and plate number. One even wrote: “Taxi drivers in Manila are all the same! They’ll rip you off all the time!” Now that is pure, unadulterated prejudice.
Today is the only day of the year when we honor the working class of the world. Let us celebrate this day by being a little kinder, a little more considerate, and a little more generous to all those who work hard not only to bring food to their families, but to make life a little better for us who do not have to do their “dirty jobs”. Today also happens to be the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. By honoring our workers we are also giving honor to this humble and peaceful carpenter, whose Son proudly took up his trade, and followed his example, and His Divine Father’s as a dedicated worker. In our First Reading, the book of Genesis tells us that God worked for six days, creating the universe, the earth and all its animals and plants, and man. Lest we dishonor God, the Supreme Worker of all creation, and His Son whose work led to our salvation, let us always honor all His children, the humble workers in our midst, and resolve never again to regard any of them with the slightest prejudice.
Father God, we pray for Your blessings to pour out on all those who labor for the betterment of Your creation, for the peace and beauty of our country, and for our sustenance and the education of our children. May they also enjoy the fruits of their efforts, as well as the reward of Your kingdom. Amen.