“How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (Acts 8: 31)

The readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time use imagery and ideas that are readily made contemporary, especially when they’re plugged into our society and economy. Begin with Elisha and Elijah, and Elijah’s command by God to mentor Elisha. Mentorships are experiencing a mild revival; employers are figuring out (again) that in many situations “one size fits one,” and that some skills can only be learned in time and through practice and repetition. The worth of receiving guidance from someone who has attained mastery is slowly being restored as a public good.

There’s moral and theological power in this realization, too: that each of us has been uniquely created by God and we each have unique gifts, and that we will be able to fulfill God’s desire for our lives only if we discover and use these gifts. Elisha’s desire to serve God by companioning Elijah on his prophetic journey, and Elijah’s (initially grumpy) acceptance of Elisha – the world could use more partnerships like this. Mentorship is a good thing. It becomes holy when the mentor hands on gifts and resources that not lead just to the betterment of one person, but when it inspires that person (the mentee) to share their gifts, too, for the common good and for the Kingdom of God among people (Lk 9: 60).

Our brothers and sisters in the labor union movement know this and live this, and we can turn to them to see examples of how one person, mentored, supported, and valued, can prosper, and how many people can do so when there is solidarity. The US bishops published a document in 1986, “Economic Justice for All,” which says, “Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. We believe the person is sacred—the clearest reflection of God among us. Human dignity comes from God, not from nationality, race, sex, economic status, or any human accomplishment. We judge any economic system by what it does for and to people and by how it permits all to participate in it. The economy should serve people, not the other way around.” And serve we must.

For decades – and happily this year on the very day the Church proclaims these readings on human and working relationships – the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and the Waukesha County Labor Council have on the last Sunday of June cooked and served the Saint Ben’s Community Meal. They gave of their free time, shared freely, and served joyfully – check out the pictures and see! And, as happens so often with volunteers – they thanked us – they thanked Saint Ben’s and Capuchin Community Services for creating an opportunity to be with and serve their neighbors, many of whom are struggling with all the ills that are holding back the Kingdom: with injustice, with marginalization, with lack of access to resources. These brothers and sisters from an alphabet soup of locals – IBEW #494 and #2150, AFSCME, UFCW, ATU, USW – gave of their time, (grilling) talent, and treasure, and gave us a Sunday we will treasure. Thanks, brothers and sisters, for sharing and for showing what the common good looks like.