Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
The highest of human wisdom traditions move up into the heights of contemplation, and see it as far more valuable than action. This is as true of the Greeks as of Asian mystical traditions, and this understanding has played a large part in the history of Christian spirituality as well. At a popular level, we see this in the things society values: the world values a life of leisure, and sees as “menial” the work of mowing lawns and cleaning dishes or toilets. The rich countries import people from poor countries to labor for them.
Yet when the Son of God came to earth, He came as the son of a carpenter – not one of the leisured class, not a Confucius or a Buddha or a Socrates. He lived His life among working people, in humble, and likely very dirty and messy villages. More: at the peak of His teaching, He washed the feet of His closest followers, identifying with the work of the most menial laborer, of a slave. And all the while, He was the Son of God, all the while He was the ultimate in contemplatives – but His contemplation was wedded to the action of a saving God. For God is a God who creates, and who labors for our salvation.
Today we celebrate the laboring status of Jesus’ foster father, Joseph, and through him, we celebrate and honor all workers. To paraphrase St. Paul, though Jesus could have been management, He chose to come as labor. He offered salvation to management as well (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea), but when He created apostles He told them they must be managers who were the lowest of the workers, servants – slaves. His preferred people were those who were humble, lowly, with callouses on their hands. Like Joseph.