The scene set at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a fitting mix of the sacred and the ordinary, with scaffolding surrounding the lecterns, hardhats upon the altar steps and a cross of structural steel prominently displayed. It was the 7th Annual Workers’ Memorial Mass, and the atmosphere within the church was as solemn as the weather outside was gloomy. Watching the incense rise above the symbols of those who died this year, while building our city, was a reminder of how fragile we all are, and how tenuous the grip on this life is, as we go out each day to practice our trades.
The readings for the liturgy were carefully chosen. The first from Genesis, reminded us that, according to biblical reference, on the seventh day, after creating a world, God rested. This being no place for theological discussion, but rather a place for all of us to share a reverent moment, we can all come to terms with the reality this reading portrays. He or she who labors – creates both wealth and beauty, and is therefore deserving of reward and rest afterwards.
The second selection, read by the deacon (who is Local 46’s own long time member- in- good standing, Frank Munoz,) was from the Gospel of St. Matthew, and it admonished us to “seek the kingdom of God first” and then all else (as in food and clothing) would surely be provided. As is so often the case, especially in religious tracts, much is open to interpretation. I, for one, seriously doubt that church attendance will guarantee a roof over your head or food on the table, but there is no need to be that literal. One could easily argue that the “kingdom of God” is that place where justice and human dignity far outweigh the greed for maximum profits at any cost. That is the kingdom that we, as a people can, and should, seek.
The homily was given by Father Brian Jordan, Chaplain to the Building Trades who was at his fiery best, and whose logic was simple. The world around us is good and humanity is part of that world, and so also good. That makes it our solemn duty to respect human life, not just with lip service, but with our actions. Those Latino workers who were threatened with the loss of their livelihood if they attended the memorial service in honor of their coworker were not treated with respect. Worse still was the treatment of the Asian worker who fell to his death, and was left unclaimed and unattended, like unwanted refuse on a sidewalk without the dignity that every human being deserves.
The ideology of “profits over people” has permeated far too much of the New York construction industry. It has been a shameful fact of life in New York for far too long, and more recently has begun to quietly lurk in “respectable” circles. It is not now, and never will be, acceptable for people to needlessly die while trying to make a living. That will always be the truth, whether or not we choose to speak it.
- Posted by admin
- On May 5, 2014
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