"Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5)
Here are highlights of the Labor Day 2020 Statement written by the Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley Archbishop of Oklahoma City and Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 7, 2020
This Labor Day is a somber one. The COVID-19 pandemic goes on. Economic circumstances for so many families are stressful or even dire. Anxiety is high. Millions are out of work and wondering how they will pay the bills. And for workers deemed “essential” who continue to work outside the home, there is the heightened danger of exposure to the virus. Yet, as Pope Francis points out in a set of beautiful and challenging reflections on the pandemic, “In this wasteland, the Lord is committed to the regeneration of beauty and rebirth of hope: ‘Behold, I am doing something new: right now it is sprouting, don’t you see it?’ (Is 43:19). God never abandons His people, He is always close to them, especially when pain becomes more present.” As God declares to John in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). God knows the challenges we face and the loss and grief we feel. The question to us is this: will we pray for and willingly participate in God’s work healing the hurt, loss, and injustice that this pandemic has caused and exposed? Will we offer all we can to the Lord to “make all things new?”
Archbishop Coakley also pointed out what Pope Francis writes of the pandemic:
We are all frail, all equal, all precious. May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family!
The Holy Father is now using his weekly general audience as an occasion for catechesis on Church teaching on inequalities that have been aggravated by the pandemic.
The dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is not at the center of our society in the way it should be. In some workplaces, this has meant an emphasis on profits over safety. That is unjust. Consumerism and individualism fuel pressures on employers and policy makers that lead to these outcomes.
The good news is that injustice does not need to have the last word. The Lord came to free us from sin, including the sins by which we diminish workers and ourselves. “This is the favorable time of the Lord, who is asking us not to conform or content ourselves, let alone justify ourselves with substitutive or palliative logic, which prevents us from sustaining the impact and serious consequences of what we are living.” Beginning with our own decisions, we might ask when we buy goods from stores or online: do we know where they came from? Do we know whether the people who made them were treated with dignity and respect? Was the workplace made safe during the pandemic, and did workers receive a just wage? If not, what can we do to remedy this?
Archbishop Coakley also suggests how we can help.
In order to protect the dignity of work and the rights of workers, we are each called to practice solidarity with those in harm’s way. In addition, we can offer charitable assistance to all those who have become unemployed during this time by donating to local food banks and Catholic Charities agencies. Catholic Charities helped 13 million people last year, and the demand has increased 30-50% so far during the pandemic and is anticipated to increase. Catholic hospitals are also strained as doctors, nurses, and staff have also been working relentlessly, and have in many instances done so at a loss of significant resources.
Pope Francis is fond of citing the 1964 dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, which reminded us that “no one can save themselves alone.” This is true in this life and the next. The fruits of individualism are clear in the disparities brought to light by this crisis. Through our work of solidarity, let us be a counter-witness to individualism. “Let us not think only of our interests, our vested interests. Let us welcome this time of trial as an opportunity to prepare for our collective future, a future for all without discarding anyone.” Let us pray for the grace to participate in God’s work in healing what is so deeply wounded in our society. Let our response to the Psalm at Mass this Labor Day echo in deed and truth: “Lead me in your justice, Lord” (Ps 5:9).