Jesus’ disciples return with great joy, celebrating the power with which they were able to carry out the Lord’s work. The harvest was abundant–there was a lot of work to do–but the laborers were few–it seems there is always a labor shortage both in the Church, and in the world. This reminds me of the fifth principle of Catholic social teaching, namely, the dignity of work and the rights of workers. The principle teaches that people have a right to decent and productive work, fair wages, private property and economic initiative. People do not exist to serve the economy, on the contrary, the economy exists to serve people.
This relationship between worker and business too often becomes one of difficulty and struggle in our world. The worker–if they show up for work at all–complains about “the grind,” they do their work slowly, dragging their feet, complaining about policies, wages, their boss, their coworkers, their working conditions, and the list goes on. You know who this is at your workplace–we all do. The work is always too great, the pay is always too little, the benefits always inadequate. That person foments dissent, division, and discomfort in the workplace–robbing everyone of their joy.
On the other hand, too often employers, seeking to gain profit on the backs of their workers, limit benefits rightfully owed, refuse to give raises that reflect the increased cost of living, demand more hours, more days, and more work from fewer and fewer workers. Employers dine sumptuously at their table while their workers have barely enough to get by.
Today’s Gospel shows the way forward. It shows the seventy two eager and willing to do the work. They took nothing extra–no money bag, no sack, no sandals. In dependency they did the work. It’s simple: go into the house, cure the sick, and announce the kingdom of God. You’ve got just one job, just the one! They depended entirely upon the generosity of those into whose house they went. Jesus tells them to eat and drink what they give you, and be grateful for it. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Don’t bounce from house to house (from job to job), always looking for a little better. Be grateful for the work, be grateful for the wage, and bring peace to your workplace.
That’s the Christian way, my friends. Christians go to work, they have a right to a decent wage, but they’re not whiners, complainers, and rock-kickers, bringing down everyone and everything. If this is our attitude, it needs to change. On the other hand, employers must share their wealth with their workers. We cannot complain about finding good help, and then not pay good help what they are worth.
And this work in the world must also reflect work and workers in the Church–Jesus was, after all, sending out his ministers. According to the Catechism, “the minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority.” (C.C.C. 2122) At the same time, “Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers, for “The laborer deserves his food.” (Lk 10:7, 1COR 9:5, 1TIM 5:17)
The ministers today are few, and the work is still great. Our priests, deacons, and religious must serve with joy in their heart, without bitterness, or desire for financial gain as they serve, and our Church shows its appreciation with food, drink, and financial support. We cannot live like kings while those who minister to us live like paupers. And in that way, the kingdom of God’s love is shared and reciprocated–each providing the other what is rightfully theirs both in the world, and in the Church. As St. Vincent de Paul taught, “Let us love God, but with the strength of our arms, in the sweat of our brow.” We work, we take care of each other. We love and advance the kingdom of God.