THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN LABOUR IN THE MODEL OF OUR LADY
A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE MARIAN DAY FOR WORKERS AT ST. PATRICK’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, WEST-END, ASABA
By Rev. Fr. JohnBosco Chimaobi Ezeonwumelu
On Saturday, 4th day of March 2017, the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku, with its head and members, gathered at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, Ogwashi-Uku to inaugurate the Marian Year. This is in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria that the year 2017 be observed as the Marian Year in celebration of the Centenary of the apparition of our Mother Mary to the three shepherds kids at Fatima in 1917. This celebration offers us an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the indispensable role of Mary in the history of salvation; her motherhood, her discipleship, and her necessary roles in the salvation of mankind.” In doing this, we give her due honour to Mary as she was first honoured by God himself and upheld by the apostles and early fathers of the Church and the Church in our time. Her different apparitions, like the one in Fatima, are ways she has continued her assistance in our salvation process.
In the course of this introduction, I have made allusion differently to salvation history and salvation process. Salvation history is the sum of all that has been done to bring us salvation. On the other hand, salvation process is the work in progress, which we are called to be part of. This is where we come in as pilgrims on the way to salvation. St. Augustine tells us that the God who created us without our knowledge cannot save us without our cooperation. So, our project here is to see how our Mother Mary can accompany us as Catholic workers to cooperate with God in working out our salvation. As we shall see, the summary of this assistance is to be found in that theme which the organizers of the Marian Year have chosen for the celebration, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Before we go into details on that, let us make a recapitulation of the message of Fatima.
THE MESSAGE OF FATIMA
We need to be abreast with that so as to appreciate better our place in the whole celebration.
On 13 May 1917, the children saw a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” The woman wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.” Remember that at this time, the First World War was on and Russia was a frontliner in it. By March 1917, Russia had already fallen and a lot of evil was going on in it. That was the situation of things at the time our Lady visited Fatima. She noted that she could no longer restrain the hand of her Divine Son from striking the world with a just punishment for its many crimes. That punishment was the raging war that was on at that time. So she needed to be assisted. That assistance should come in three ways – Amendment of Life, penance and more dedication to prayers, especially the Holy Rosary.
Amendment of life
She observed that a lot of things people do then as their way of life offend her son so much. These include:
1. Sins of the Flesh: “More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
2. Immodest Fashions: “Certain fashions are being introduced that offend Our Lord very much.”
3. Sinful Marriages: “Many marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord and are not of God.”
Many innocent people suffer as a result of the sins of others. Hence she proposed the second remedy which is one with the third, Penance and prayers.
Penance and Prayer
In one of visits to the children, she helped them have a vision of hell and how souls pour into hell on a daily basis. So she cried out, “Pray, pray a great deal, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have no-one to make sacrifices and pray for them.” She added that “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”
Indeed, this celebration is all about doing what our Lady asks us to do. In John 2:5, she asked the servants at the marriage feast to do whatever Jesus asks them to do. It is in doing what God wants us to do that the Church finds the dignity of human labour. So what is it about the dignity of human labour?
THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN LABOUR
When we talk about the dignity of labour, the first thing that immediately comes to mind is the design of God for man concerning labour. In Gen 1:28, after the creation of man, God commanded him, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over all the birds of the air…” The dominion means that all other created things are to be placed at the service of man. Unfortunately, these other created things are sometimes valued above the human person. That was the problem that engineered the first industrial revolution that began in the late 18th century in Europe. Till this day, some people believe that in order to remain powerful, they need to keep reducing their subordinates or colleagues to nothingness. The people with that orientation think that their dignity comes from power.
However, John Coleman, in discussing the dignity of human labour in Pope Francis quoted the Pope as saying that, “We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work.” He continued to say that, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, ‘anoints’ with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who always acts.” That means, in our different works, we are expected to represent God the creator. Remember that God the creator created order out of chaos. Therefore, to maintain the dignity of labour, our work must have the capacity of creating harmony in the society. St. Paul says in Eph 1:9-11, “God has made known to us, in all wisdom and understanding, his mysterious design, in accordance with his loving purpose in Christ. In him and under him as head, God planned to unite all things in heaven and on earth, when the fullness of time had come. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.”
Can you see? It is in doing the will of God that we praise and glorify the name of God. That is where the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes our model of emulation. She not only asks us, but also shows us how to do the will of God.
THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR IN MARY
Since we consider the dignity of human labour as being found in man’s effort to do the will of God, our first connection with Mary on that would be her response to the message of the angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). That response enabled her to conceive God in her womb. In other words, she became a carrier of God. That is exactly what happened to us at our baptism. By saying no to the devil and his agents, and saying yes to God, we become carriers of God. However, the important thing is in what happens next after we become carriers of God. Eleanor Powell is quoted as saying that, “What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.” As for Mary, she went immediately and quickly to look for a hand in need of help. Her first beneficiary, of course, was Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39ff). But she was not the only one; there was another man, a bridegroom who would have been shamed for not providing enough wine. In this second instance, the response of Jesus (John 2:4) tells us that Mary probably has no serious relationship with the marrying couple but she still showed concern and would not give up until she obtained the desired help. That is why we call her blessed after Jesus did so himself (cf. Luke 11:28).
The baton is now in our hands. At the fourteenth station of the Stations of the Cross the Lord tells us, “My work as man is done; my work within and through the Church must now commence. I look to you. You are my friend; you are my apostle.” How do we respond to our invitation to assist God in ensuring that everything he created is found good (see Gen 1:31)? Our different works offer us the opportunity to do so. Remember the Lord’s message at the end of the Stations of the Cross, “Do not look for me in far away places. I am very close to you; in your farms, in your families, in your play grounds; in these places you must bear witness to Christ’s love.” We can actually begin to live out the dignity of human labour to the fullest when we begin to think less of what shall profit you and think more of what shall favour others.
While hanging on the Cross, Jesus gave his mother to his beloved disciple to be his mother (cf. John 19:25-27). It is from there that she too became our Mother. A mother is a guide in the home. She directs the children on the way to follow so as to avoid mistakes or offend the father. Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been doing this through the ages. That was her mission in Fatima and her desire in your life if you give her opportunity.
????Is it difficult for you to know and accept the will of God in your life? She can help you with the kind of grace that enabled her to do so.
????Are you in any kind of need – material or spiritual? Remember that she is called the Mother of Perpetual Help; she can help you with the desired help.
????Are you battling with impurity in your life, in your home and at work? She is known with the title of the Immaculate Heart. She can help you obtain the grace of purity.
Whatever your situation might be at this time, you only need to come to this throne of grace and all will be well again. Peace be with you
O COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE
1. O come to the throne of grace,
O come to the heart most pure!
To Mary, our hope of life,
In whom salvation is sure.
O Lady of Fatima, hail!
Immaculate Mother of grace;
O, pray for us, help us today,
Thou hope of the human race!
2. Immaculate Heart! we kneel
To consecrate all to thee:
The present, its pain and joy—–
The future, all it may be.
3. The sun at thy royal word
Spun round like a splendid toy;
The rose petals showering down
Proclaimed thee cause of our joy.
4. The Rosary, white and gold,
We take from thy Virgin hand;
A pledge of the power of God
To heal and strengthen our land.
5. O Mother of Sorrows, hail!
We mourn for our evil done;
O soften our selfish hearts,
And lead us back to thy Son.
6. O Mother of priests in need,
For thine assistance we pray;
Thy graces flow: sweet the seed
Of Saints, thy Son to obey.
7. O Mother of all mankind,
Lead Russia back home again,
That over a peaceful world
Thy heart may graciously reign.