It's Labor Day and our scriptures direct us to consider, "What
is the 'work' proper to the Christian community?" Now, this notion of
work doesn't mean the labor for which one receives remuneration, but it points
to the essential "work" of the community as that of maintaining its holiness.
There seem to be at least three parts or even levels of the "work": Naming,
acting without malice, and always attending to one's propensity to hypocrisy.
St. Paul names the person who is sinning against the community's holiness
and he orders direct action be taken to ostracize that person from the community.
The incest mentioned is certainly a serious offense and would put the Christian
community in a bad light with its pagan neighbors.
Second, in his extended metaphor about leavening bread, he counsels the
community to act without malice:
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Seems to me that I'm as deaf to this admonition as anyone I point my finger
at. It's one thing to name destructive behavior - the clerical sexual
abuse scandal, the flap over who can receive Communion and who should be barred,
and so forth - and it's another to act in a way that is free from malice.
Sincerity and truth have to do with being able to discern my motives clearly.
That ties into the third level of "work" on this Labor Day: attending to
my /your propensity toward hypocrisy. Our buddies, the Pharisees, function
in the gospels as a foil for the Christian community. They serve as
a mirror for what good religious people like you and I fall into, namely,
hypocrisy. We say we are concerned about one thing, the work of God.
We act in a manner that goes against that without noticing it.
So, on this Labor Day, when we refrain from labor, let us continue to "work"
in such a way as to recognize the yeast of malice and wickedness as it "works"
in us so that we may both beg for and "work" for freedom from it.
This is the opportunity that our election year gives us all. We are
so divided by ideology in this country. In addition to the "work" of
discerning whom to vote for, maybe the yeast of malice and wickedness
might become so apparent to one or other of us that we might actually "work"
Happy Labor Day!