Fr. Bryce McProud

Nov 192017
 

Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

 

The traditional way of assessing a passage of scripture is by engaging in exegesis first and then applying the hermeneutic. Before you say “what?” I’d like to put it in language that is more accessible. Exegesis is analysis of the text. We ask, “What is actually being said, what is the setting in which the passage was written and what is the situation and circumstance of the actual writing?” Exegesis.

Hermeneutic, from the Greek God Hermes who was the winged messenger, hermeneutic takes the message from back then brings it to us here and now. It is the ancient Word conveyed to us today. In the 15th chapter of Romans, St. Paul wrote “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction…” We have the “there and then” message and the “here and now” application.

Here’s a little exegesis for today’s Gospel lesson. The setting is about Wednesday in Holy Week. Jesus has made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem; he has cleansed the Temple and he’s had major confrontations with various Jewish authorities. He’s challenged and infuriated enough powerful people to get him crucified. Jesus did this intentionally and time is running short; Friday will soon be here.

The air is thick with tension as Jesus is having a private word with his disciples. He is not speaking to the general crowd or the scribes or Pharisees or other powers that be. It is a personal moment with his committed followers who are really uneasy. Things are happening very quickly. Violence is looming. Jesus is instructing them with a parable. Let’s take a closer look.

Jesus is telling his disciples that a rather affluent man was going on a journey, and he called his three servants to him and gave each one a specific amount of money. A talent was a considerable sum. One commentator mentioned that a talent was about 15 years worth of wages. So if we pick a number, say $50,000 as a year’s wage in present day America, then a talent would be about $750,000 in today’s money. Two talents would be akin to $1,500,000. And 5 talents would be $3,750,000. It’s quite a bit of money. So our Lord is saying that one servant was given 5 talents, a second two and the third servant was given 1 talent, and then the affluent man went away. The servant with the 5 talents doubled the money as did the one with 2 talents, but the servant with the one talent buried his in the garden because he didn’t want to take the risk of losing it.

When the affluent man came home, he called the servants to him and he heaped praise on the two servants who had doubled his money. But the one who buried the equivalent of $750,000 in a hole in the back yard was chastised and ordered to give the one talent to the first servant who had doubled the 5 talents—and then the cautious, but unfaithful one talent servant was banished. This must have been a most upsetting parable for the disciples.

You see, according to the rabbinical tradition of that day, a person entrusted with a considerable sum of money for safekeeping fulfilled his obligation if he protected the money by burying it. To hear otherwise had to have been most unsettling to the disciples. We can hear them asking, “Isn’t burying the money the best way to safeguard the treasure?” Jesus said “no.”

Obviously our Lord was talking about a lot more than money. Time was getting short, and Jesus was making sure that his followers understood the value what he was leaving them: the saving Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Some would have more responsibility than others in spreading this Gospel. But all of them were entrusted with a share of the Good News. It must not be hidden away, buried in the back yard if you will. Nothing was—and is—more valuable.

Now I’d like to open this up a bit and look at the motivation especially of the one talent servant. I can see a lot of reasons why the servant entrusted with one talent might have buried the money. These are some of the excuses he might have used:

  1. I did not want the responsibility of this much money in the first place, so I thought that if I buried it, I knew it would be safe.
  2. I’m tired. I’m just plain weary. I’m burned out and the thought of having this kind of responsibility is just too much.
  3. I’m afraid that I might fail. I do not want to look foolish. There’s something about failing that’s so awful that I’d rather not even try.
  4. I’ve got some “hang-ups.” I’m from a dysfunctional family. I never did learn how to deal well with authority, especially anyone who put unwanted responsibility and expectations on me. My master is pretty demanding. He reminds me of my father who used to abuse me. I just resent the fact that my master gave me this talent to take care of.
  5. I just don’t have the time. I have a whole lot of other things to do and this is a most unwelcome burden.

I can just see this servant. Hands plowed deep in his pants pockets, shoulders folded down into a perpetual slouch, face cast in a hardened scowl. He complains about everything: the weather, the economy, the government, the neighbors who don’t rake their leaves and let their dogs bark too much. All of this is just speculation on my part.

In the text, Jesus does tell us why the one talent servant did what he did: Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ Jesus tells us that the Master was infuriated by this response. He told him to give the money to the one who had doubled the 5 talents and then he was cast out.

The key phrase in this whole passage is often looked at as a “throw away” line. The Master said to the servant who buried the one talent: Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?   This verse is critical because I think that this passage is a whole lot less about individual gifts and talents and a whole lot more about asking for help when we need to do what God calls us to do.

Let me develop this if I may. I want to once again offer a basic truth of the Catholic Church : “Catholics are called to think “we” instead of just “me.” We are a people of community. And I think that we can find this especially in this parable. For example we see that the servants given 5 talents and 2 talents had identical results—they both doubled the money entrusted to them. This suggests to me that they probably worked together and the servant entrusted with one talent did not work with the other two.

The exegesis, the “there and then” message was given by Jesus to his disciples in the form of a parable. Like all parables, there are a myriad of interpretations. What is clear however is that Jesus offered this teaching just a couple of days before he was crucified. Last minute instructions tend to be the most important ones. Jesus is clear that at the time of judgment, even disciples will be held accountable for not profitably using gifts and talents that are given to them—to us.

As we apply this to ourselves, we do understand that not all of us who resist God’s will, who don’t want to use our God-given talents for the glory of God look or act like this one talent servant. When we find ourselves in this situation, of knowing what our talent is, we often will do about anything to avoid using it.

Each of us can say: If I have the talent to work with kids, but I’m afraid that they’ll stick me back in the nursery working with the youngsters during a children’s liturgy.  Or—If I have the talent to be hospitable, they’ll want me to coordinate coffee and donuts on Sunday morning.  If I have the talent to be kind, they’ll probably want me to be a lay Eucharistic minister and take Holy Communion to shut ins. How time consuming.

Applying the exegesis to our hermeneutic, it would be helpful to remember that we are to live as if time is getting short for us too. It may well be Wednesday in Holy Week for us and we need to reflect on the faithfulness Christ is calling us embrace and to use the talents entrusted to us. Some have more responsibility than others, but we all have important talents given to us and we must not bury them in the back yard out by the apple tree.

 

 

 

Nov 122017
 

The theme of the gospel lesson for today is the importance of vigilance. The watchfulness of the faithful cannot be passive; it must be proactive and constant. The Church emphasizes that a primary way for us to be diligent is by our good works, by reaching out to those in need and by loving God and neighbors as our selves.

Often it’s difficult to maintain this vigilance individually. That’s why it is most effectively done in groups and there is one group in the Church that is sworn to maintain this diligence and I’d like to comment on this organization now.

Some time back I told my very Protestant brother-in-law that I had become a member of the Knights of Columbus. His response surprised me. He said, “The Knights of Columbus are a bunch of stand-up guys.” As I thought about it, he was absolutely right. The Knights of Columbus are a bunch of ‘stand-up guys,’ guys who prayerfully put their time and their talent and their money to the service Christ and his Church. They defend the poor and oppressed and especially those most vulnerable in our society—unborn babies. The Knights are a bunch of stand-up guys and I’m blessed to be one of them.

Let me give you some numbers. In 2015, the Knights of Columbus gave over $175 million directly to charity and performed 73.5 million hours of voluntary service. In 2010, knights donated 413,000 pints of blood. Pope St. John Paul II once referred to the Knights of Columbus as “the strong right arm of the Church.” It’s a bunch of stand-up guys.

Founded in 1882 in New Haven, Ct. by Fr. Michael McGivney, the Knights are a fraternal order originally established to address the needs of Catholic immigrants who were struggling in their new home. Named in honor of Christopher Columbus, the Knights came together as faithful Catholic men to support their families, their community and the Church.

There are four degrees or levels and each degree has a particular focus. The first degree emphasizes charity, the second unity, the third fraternity and the 4th degree, patriotism which we will look at especially because of Veteran’s day and those Knights who recently advanced to the rank of 4th degree.

I borrow much of the following from Bishop William Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Order. He wrote:

Since our founding, the members of the Knights of Columbus have been patriots. In all the countries where the Knights are active, its members have fought to turn back the rule of modern-day tyrants and terrorists, and to defend human dignity, freedom, and rights. We continue to express our love of country by being active in the political process, by our strong defense of innocent human life and the role of the family, by doing our daily work as well as we can for the sake of our homelands, and by seeking to rid our countries of all that departs from their most sacred values. Through the Fourth Degree of the Order, we highlight the commitment of the Knights of Columbus to the love of God and country.

Bishop Lori continues:

Our Order was born in a period of intense, even overt bigotry against the Catholic Church, a bigotry that persists in various forms today, at the least in some parts of these United States. Nonetheless, we are persistent in our patriotism not because we imagine our [country and culture] to be perfect – but because we are confident that God’s truth and love, working through us and our fellow citizens can help mend our native [land], prompting [this land] we call home to live up to [our] founding ideals, to embrace that which is coherent, true, good, and beautiful in our native culture. Patriotism, my dear friends, is a virtue not for the faint of heart.

Bishop Lori also pointed out that to help us in our piety and patriotism, we Knights have special devotion to our Blessed Mother. Mary teaches us about the presence of Christ, true God and true man, and in his light, she enables us to discern those elements in our culture which accord with human dignity and those which do not, those which help communicate the faith, and those which do not. As we look toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, toward complete communion with the Triune God and with one another, our longing is not an escape from the world: its tragedies, dilemmas, and problems.

Rather, like our Lady, we seek to cooperate in bringing the communion of God’s own life and love right here to the heart of our country, right here to the confusion, the tragedy, the mischance that always characterize human endeavor and the history we write by our lives. No matter how evil and shocking the events, whether it be a crazed killer shooting up a worship service in rural Texas, or the obscene slaughter of unborn children in an abortion mill in Glenwood, Oregon, we Knights will not flinch in the face of evil. We honor Christ’s call to be vigilant.

We look forward to the Celestial City, our true home with the Triune God, together with Mary and all the saints and angels. The beauty of this new and eternal Jerusalem has been shown to us by the Daughter of Zion, by Mary, the woman arrayed with the sun and the stars. As that beauty takes hold of our souls, then we are equipped to be true patriots, true citizens of the earthly city which we are to transform into a true civilization of love. The Blessed Virgin did not come to create an earthly utopia but she did plant the seeds of a culture in which human life and dignity is respected, in which caring for one another and the needs of others is the norm, and in which peace and justice is consistently sought. This all is embraced and defended faithfully by a bunch of stand up guys.

Let us now join with Knights everywhere and close with this brief prayer honoring and commemorating the past and present members of our armed forces:   

Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother, please pray to your Son, Our Lord,

 for our warriors and our veterans,  for our country and our continued freedom. Amen.

 

Nov 082017
 

We show our respect and love for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan; it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

Scripture

God made the heavens and the earth and it was good.

Genesis 1:31  31God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.       

Humans are commanded to care for God’s creation.

Genesis 2:15    15The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.

The land itself must be given a rest and not abused.

Leviticus 25:1-7   The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2 Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, let the land, too, keep a sabbath for the LORD. 3For six years you may sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyard, gathering in their produce. 4But during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath for the LORD, when you may neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap, nor shall you pick the grapes of your untrimmed vines. It shall be a year of rest for the land. 6While the land has its sabbath, all its produce will be food to eat for you yourself and for your male and female slave, for your laborer and the tenant who live with you, 7and likewise for your livestock and for the wild animals on your land.

All of heaven and earth belong to the Lord

Deuteronomy 10:14   14Look, the heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it.

All the earth is the Lord’s.

Psalm 24:1-2   The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it. 2For he founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers.

Creation proclaims the glory of God.

Daniel 3:56-82

56Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,

     *praiseworthy and glorious forever.

57Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

58Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

59You heavens, bless the Lord,

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

60All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

61All you powers, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

62Sun and moon, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

63Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

64Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

65All you winds, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

66Fire and heat, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

67Cold and chill, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

68Dew and rain, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

69Frost and chill, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

70Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

71Nights and days, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

72Light and darkness, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

73Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

74Let the earth bless the Lord,

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

75Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

76Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

77You springs, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

78Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

79You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

80All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

81All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever.

82All you mortals, bless the Lord;

     *praise and exalt him above all forever

God loves and cares for all of creation

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? 28Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. 29But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ 32All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. 34Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Creation reveals the nature of God

Romans 1:20   20Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.

 

Tradition  

A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. . . . Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’. . . ],nos. 49, 91)

The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.  (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’. . . ], no. 159)

We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.(Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Guadium. . . ], no. 215)

The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate]. . . , nos. 48, 51)

Changes in lifestyle based on traditional moral virtues can ease the way to a sustainable and equitable world economy in which sacrifice will no longer be an unpopular concept. For many of us, a life less focused on material gain may remind us that we are more than what we have. Rejecting the false promises of excessive or conspicuous consumption can even allow more time for family, friends, and civic responsibilities. A renewed sense of sacrifice and restraint could make an essential contribution to addressing global climate change. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good)

Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. . . . Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray.  Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him. (St. John Paul II, On the Hundredth Year [Centesimus Annus. . . ], no. 37)

The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to “use and misuse,” or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to “eat of the fruit of the tree” (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity. A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources and the consequences of haphazard industrialization – three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.(St. John Paul II, On Social Concerns [Sollicitudo rei Socialis. . . ], no. 34)

©2017 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

November 5, 2017 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Nov 052017
 

1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13

Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

There’s a theme in both the epistle and gospel lessons assigned for today, and I’d like to reflect on this theme for a bit. It’s burden-bearing. If the essence of our Church’s social doctrine is thinking “we” instead of just “me,” then one of the more practical things we can do is be empathetic, sensitive to and helpful in bearing one another’s burdens.

As we all know, sometimes the burdens get really heavy and both Jesus and St. Paul express concern about this. St. Paul states in his first letter to the Thessalonians: You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. Paul is saying that he’s putting in a lot of effort so as not to add to the burdens of the Thessalonians. 

In contrast, Jesus speaks of the scribes and Pharisees, who pile on heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.   Note the difference between the two statements. On the one hand we have St. Paul who has no desire to add to the numerous burdens of the Thessalonians, whereas Jesus speaks of the unnecessarily heavy loads that the scribes and Pharisees pile on the people.

The topic of burdens is important throughout the Scriptures. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2) Jesus himself says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) We all know what it is like to feel burdened by life.

Every single person we know is bearing a burden of some kind, some seen, some unseen. Cancer, financial hardship, broken relationships, caregiving for an elderly parent, a child struggling in school, addiction, chronic health issues; the burdens add up and weigh us down. And we all feel the collective burdens of lives lost or afflicted because of natural disasters, mass shootings, and the global struggles of war, poverty and disease.

It’s no surprise that the bearing of burdens shows up all through the Bible. And in our texts for today, we have the contrast between how Paul is trying to convey the Good News of Jesus to the faithful in Thessalonica in a non-burdensome manner, over against the scribes and Pharisees who demand things that are oppressive. What differentiates them? After all, Paul began his religious life as a Pharisee. What helped him to escape being a burden to his community? And more than that, how did he become someone who lessened the burdens of others?

The scribes and Pharisees were guilty of making religious leadership more of a public display than an act of service. More often than not, their good works were performed in order to be seen and admired by others. Sometimes they enlarged their phylacteries to make them more conspicuous. (By the way, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing passages of scripture that were strapped to the forehead and left arm during prayer.)  They also liked to display longer than usual tassels on their garments as visible reminders to keep the commandments. And as they preened and pranced in public, they would also shove one another out of the way to get to the place of honor, somewhat like a politician today who elbows others aside to get in front of a TV camera.

It must be noted that Jesus was not opposed to religious dress, official titles or even positions of honor. What he criticizes is calling attention to one’s practice of religion for the sake of receiving accolades from people rather than the approval of God.  Jesus is stressing that humility is essential for all ministry, lest those who are placed in authority over others think of themselves as superiors rather than servants. Our Lord even went so far as to say that anyone who exalts him or herself can expect the day of reckoning to bring humiliation.

In probing a bit, we can speculate from how Jesus describes the scribes and Pharisees, that they are creating burdens for others because they are carrying crippling burdens of their own. Their burden is made of a toxic combination of trying to curry God’s favor by their demonstrations, all the while demanding that everyone around them acknowledge their superior efforts. They have taken the sacred Law of Moses, which Jesus upholds in this passage, and saddled it with the deceptively heavy weight of their fragile egos, the all too often petty and fearful tyranny of the ego.

However, we have to be careful. Before long we can start to think that we’re better than other people who aren’t working as hard as we are to further the Kingdom of God. It can be a short road from “trying to help and care for others” to being “holier-than-thou and insufferable.”  What began as an honest search for the love of God and a life of holiness can turn into our becoming a burden to all we encounter. Why did this happen? What is missing?

What is missing is the space, silence, and humility needed to actually receive and convey the radiant love of God. When we approach the Christian life as a constant stream of virtuous activity directed as loudly as possible both at God and at our brothers and sisters and neighbors: “Look at me! Look at all the wonderful things I’m doing!”  The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit is very easily drowned out. Our self-imposed burden of a needy ego, never patient enough to surrender to the love of God, will sooner or later become the arrogance and self-satisfaction of the scribes and Pharisees depicted in our gospel passage today.

Contrast this with the words of St. Paul: You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. This “toil and drudgery,” “night and day,” that Paul speaks of consists in large part of patient and faithful prayer: Regularly going silently within, becoming still and engaging in spiritual disciplines, finding and remaining faithful in daily spiritual practice. Joining this with the formal prayers of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, The Our Father, The Hail Mary and so on, this is the labor and toil that, over time, lifts our false internal burdens and sets us free. The freely chosen work of prayer and building spiritual intimacy with God slowly transforms us from being burdens, to merely having burdens, to one day lifting the burdens of others.

That’s one half of the equation: the labor and toil of prayer and individual submission to God. The other half is the night and day patient engagement with other people. Moving from being a burden to other people to lifting burdens from other people requires exactly that: other people. The quest for gospel transformation does not take place in a bubble. There are some of us who might enjoy sitting alone all day and thinking beautiful thoughts about God, but that is not love.

Individualistic spiritual practices taken to an extreme will make us a burden to others as surely as no spiritual practice at all.  Anyone who has had to carry heavy burdens will know that balance is the key. Trying to carry heavy bags of groceries up flights of stairs in only one hand is very difficult. Shift the bags to carry them equally in both hands and the burden is suddenly much easier to bear.

So it is with our balance of individual and communal spiritual intimacy. Keep it all on one side of the equation and we are quickly out of balance, becoming heavy to both ourselves and others. Seek an even distribution of time alone with God and time together with God’s people, especially at Mass, serving the poor and needy, watching the neighbor’s kids while she tends to an emergency and suddenly progress forward is smoother and easier.

Paul says in our epistle today that the Word is at work in us as believers. That’s important to remember as we seek to carry our own burdens and to be sensitive and helpful to those who are heavy laden. No burden we shoulder is ours alone. The Holy Spirit within us is always present and ready to do the heavy lifting. Jesus says it himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The burdens of life and community may never go away, but when the love of God pervades them, they are no longer crushing weights. Our burdens become a steadying presence, anchoring and grounding us in the faithful pursuit of grace and truth. For it is when we commit to turning our burdens over to God that we are empowered to bear the burdens of one another. And a burden shared becomes a burden halved, as the old saying goes. We can modify this: a burden shared becomes a burden graced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solidarity

 Week 6 Solidarity  Comments Off on Solidarity
Oct 312017
 

We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.  Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.

Scripture

God blessed Israel so that all nations would be blessed through it.

Genesis 12:1-3

The LORD said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.

May our leaders be agents of peace and justice.

Psalm 72:8-14

8May he rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth. 9May his foes kneel before him, his enemies lick the dust. 10May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. 11May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him. 12For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help. 13He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor. 14From extortion and violence he redeems them, for precious is their blood in his sight.

These are the things you should do: Speak truth, judge well, make peace.

Zechariah 8:16 -17 

These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates. 17Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate—oracle of the LORD.         

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Matthew 5:9  

9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Be reconciled to one another before coming to the altar.

Matthew 5:21-24

21“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. 23Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Living rightly means to love one another.

Romans 13:8-10  

8Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

If one member of Christ’s body suffers, all suffer.  If one member is honored, all rejoice.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

12As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. 14Now the body is not a single part, but many. 15If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 16Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

In unity, clothe yourself with love and let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.

Colossians 3:9-17         

9Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. 11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. 12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience 13bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The love of God in us is witnessed to by our willingness to lay down our lives for others as Christ did for us.

1 John 3:13-18  

Do not be amazed, [then,] brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 16The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? 18Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

 
Tradition  

Developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future. The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. . . . As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.” We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’. . . ],no. 52, quoting United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good)

In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods, but, as I mentioned in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. We need only look around us to see that, today, this option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si. . . ‘], no. 158)

To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.  Besides the good of the individual, there is the good that is linked to living in society: the common good.  It is the good of “all of us,” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.  … To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 7)

It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act. Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise. Consumers should be continually educated regarding their daily role, which can be exercised with respect for moral principles without diminishing the intrinsic economic rationality of the act of purchasing… It can be helpful to promote new ways of marketing products from deprived areas of the world, so as to guarantee their producers a decent return. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 66)

At another level, the roots of the  contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them. . . It is precisely in this sense that Cain’s answer to the Lord’s question: “Where is Abel your brother?” can be interpreted: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).  Yes, every man is his “brother’s keeper,” because God entrusts us to one another. (St. John Paul II, The Gospel of Life [Evangelium Vitae. . . ], no. 19)

[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. (St. John Paul II, On Social Concern [Sollicitudo rei Socialis. . . ], no. 38)

Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, based upon the principle that the goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all. (St. John Paul II, On Social Concern [Sollicitudo rei Socialis. . . ], no. 39)

We have to move from our devotion to independence, through an understanding of interdependence, to a commitment to human solidarity. That challenge must find its realization in the kind of community we build among us. Love implies  concern for all – especially the poor – and a continued search for those social  and economic structures that permit everyone to share in a community that is a  part of a redeemed creation (Rom 8:21-23). (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 365)

The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist. (St. John XXIII, On Christianity and Social Progress [Mater et Magistra. . . ], no. 157)

October 29, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 29 October  Comments Off on October 29, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct 292017
 

 

It’s enlightening to ponder the setting in which Jesus speaks; it regularly can give us things to see that we may not see otherwise. For example, in today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says those most familiar words about love. What’s enlightening to me is that he is saying them to the Pharisees on Wednesday in Holy Week. He’s going to be crucified in two days. The Pharisees are plotting to kill him and Jesus is telling them that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a not-so-subtle reminder that the bottom line for all the Faithful—then and now— is to put love first and everything else is to follow. It’s agape love and I like to define Agape love as unconditional positive regard. Often that can only happen by divine intervention. I’ve been thinking about this in context of all the issues of violence in the world that are connected with Islam. It’s prompted this homily.

In light of current events, I thought I’d provide some very brief information about Islam in general, the Catholic Church’s teachings about our relationship with Islam and then I’d like to comment about some responses to Islam in the wake of all that is happening today.

Here’s a very brief snapshot: As you probably know, Islam is a religion that was founded by the Prophet Mohammad around the 7th century. The word “Islam” means both “peace” and “surrender” in Arabic and the one who surrenders or “submits” is called a Muslim. Mohammed’s message was that all people must submit both to God, Allah, and to Allah’s righteous will. At the Day of Judgment those who have submitted and lived righteous lives will enjoy eternal bliss in Paradise, while those who resist will be consigned to a fiery Hell.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is an “Abrahamic” faith; in other words is it monotheistic and it traces its roots back to the Patriarch Abraham. Muslims argue that their heritage flows from Adam to Abraham and on through Ishmael, the son of Hagar the slave girl, rather than through his half-brother Isaac, through whom Jews and Christians trace their lineage. Islam also reveres Moses, the Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus and even the Virgin Mary. Muslims consider Mohammed to be the last and greatest of all the Prophets.

Islam teaches that Jesus was born of the Blessed Virgin, that he was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the third day. However, they don’t consider him to be God Incarnate as we Christians affirm: Resurrection yes; Incarnation, no.

The sacred scripture of Islam is the Koran which must be read in Arabic if one is pick up the essential nuances of the faith.

There are five requirements or “Five Pillars of Faith” that every Muslim is to observe.

  1. There must be an affirmation and frequent recitation of the Shahadah or Creed, which is: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”
  2. There must be recitation of specific prayers 5 times a day directed toward Mecca. In a mosque there is a niche in a wall that indicates the direction.
  3. There must be generous giving of alms.
  4. The believers must fast during the daylight hours of the season of Ramadan.
  5. There must be a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime. If it is impossible to go, a faithful Muslim is then encouraged to provide gifts to help another to make this pilgrimage.

In addition to these 5 obligations, Muslims also practice circumcision, they abstain from alcoholic beverages and pork, and it is permitted for a man to have as many as 4 wives.

Islam has always had an aggressive policy about converting others. Some, for example the Taliban and Al-Qaida, proselytize with the threat of violence, although the vast majority of Muslims do not.

Islam is not monolithic. To say that one is Muslim, is akin to saying that one is Christian; there is a wide variety of Islamic parties that are as diverse as fundamentalist Baptists, liberal Episcopalians and highly scrupulous Catholics. And yet there is this common core set of beliefs.

At the second Vatican Council the Bishops wrote that: “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the [Muslims] who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God” (LG 16)

The council also tells us that the Church holds Muslims in high esteem because:

“They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; [Muslims] take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their desserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.” (NA 3)

Several years later, Pope St. John Paul II added:

“I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s respect for Islam, for authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, that is concerned for those in need. Recalling the errors of the past, including the most recent past, all believers ought to unite their efforts to ensure that God is never made the hostage of human ambitions. Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God and disfigure the true image of man.” (Address, Sept. 2001)

So how do we apply this to all that is happening today? As my old colleague Bp. Dan Martins pointed out, we need to begin with the issue of “Islamaphobia.”

Islamaphobia is splitting our country. It has created a polarity that pits those who look for a violent Muslim behind anybody who looks even vaguely Arab or South Asian, fearing that they might be jihadist terrorists who long to cut our throats and abscond with our children. This is countered by those whose only understanding of Islam is of a peace-loving “Abrahamic” faith, a faith that is conjoined with Christianity and Judaism.

For the first group, they need to ratchet down the fear mongering. It is prudent to be watchful, but it is easy to move over into the camp of the bigoted and over reactionary. This group thrives on those almost daily stories of young U.S. Muslims doing all they can to join up with Isis, Jihadists and other radical Islamists; however, it must be pointed out that there is overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that the vast majority of Muslims living here in the US have no sympathy whatsoever with acts of politically or religiously-motivated violence against anyone, anywhere.

That said, to the second group who tend to be dewy eyed progressives, I must say that it is naive and dishonest to deny that groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS (or ISIL, depending on how you like to translate the Arabic) who locate their identity and mission squarely and solely in the teaching and practice of Islam. One can argue that they distort and misconstrue Islam, as many Muslims indeed do argue. But they are not generic terrorists, they are Islamic terrorists. In a society where freedom of thought and expression are valued, it must not be off limits to criticize not only violent acts, but also the avowed motivation of those who commit violent acts, in this case, Islam. It is a dilemma.

Both of these statements are true. Fear-mongering and ethnically-based prejudice are particularly reprehensible. And calling into question this or that aspect of Islam is not necessarily in and of itself either “hate speech” or bigotry. It’s a fine line. We need to pray for the gifts of wisdom and prudence.

Returning to Jesus and the Pharisees in Wednesday of Holy Week and the looming crucifixion, I would remind you that Jesus is crystal clear about one thing: that love of God and love, unconditional positive regard of neighbor, including our Muslim neighbors, is our Lord’s single greatest admonition to us and we jolly well better take it to heart. And pray for help when our suspicions and prejudice seem to be winning the day.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40

 

 

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

 Week 5 The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers  Comments Off on The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Oct 242017
 

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

Scripture

God rests on the seventh day.

Genesis 2:1-3

1Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. 2 On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. 3God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.

God settles man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.

Genesis 2:15

15The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. 

The Sabbath is for everyone; all are allowed to rest from their work.

Deuteronomy 5:13-15 

13Six days you may labor and do all your work, 14but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. 15Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.         

Do not withhold wages from your workers, for their livelihood depends on them.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

14 You shall not exploit a poor and needy hired servant, whether one of your own kindred or one of the resident aliens who live in your land, within your gates. 15On each day you shall pay the servant’s wages before the sun goes down, since the servant is poor and is counting on them. Otherwise the servant will cry to the LORD against you, and you will be held guilty.

To deprive an employee of wages is to commit murder.

Sirach 34:25-27

25The bread of charity is life itself for the needy; whoever withholds it is a murderer.  26To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder; 27 to deny a laborer wages is to shed blood.

 

Woe to him who treats his workers unjustly

Jeremiah 22:13

13Woe to him who builds his house on wrongdoing, his roof-chambers on injustice; who works his neighbors without pay, and gives them no wages.

All workers should be paid a just and living wage.

Matthew 20:1-16

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ 5So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. 6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ 8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ 9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ 13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The Sabbath was made for people, not people  for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27

27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Practice integrity in your work.

Luke 3:10-14

10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

One’s worth is not determined by an abundance of possessions.

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” 14He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” 15Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Those who become rich by abusing their workers have sinned against God.

James 5:1-6

1Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. 2Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, 3your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. 4Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.     

Tradition  

Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone,” no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replaces human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si. . . ‘], nos. 127-28)

Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium. . . ], no. 204) I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the  human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the  aim of all economic and social life.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity  in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 25, quoting Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes. . . ], no. 63)

The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, or inherently inhuman or opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 36)

In many cases, poverty results from a violation  of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited  (through unemployment or underemployment), or “because a low value is put on  work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and  to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.”  (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 63)

…those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ—threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess.(Pope Leo XIII Rerum novarum (from its first two words, Latin for “of revolutionary change”), or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, par. 22)

The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace. (St. John Paul II, The Hundredth Year [Centesimus  Annus. . . ], no. 43)

All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other associations. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Catholic Framework for Economic Life, no. 5)

Work is, as has been said, an obligation, that is to say, a duty, on the part of man. . . Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order to be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he belongs to, the country of which he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member, since he is the heir to the work of generations and at the same time a sharer in building the future of those who will come after him in the succession of history. (St. John Paul II, On Human Work [Laborem Exercens]. . . , no. 16)      Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being.” (St. John Paul II, On Human Work [Laborem Exercens. . . ], no. 9)      All these rights, together with the need for the workers themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of association, that is to form associations for the purpose of defending the vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These associations are called labor or trade unions. (St. John Paul II, On Human Work [Laborem Exercens. . . ], no. 20)      As the Church solemnly reaffirmed in the recent Council, “the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person.”   All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families “to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level” and to assistance in case of need arising from sickness or age. (Blessed Paul VI, A Call to Action [Octogesima Adveniens. . . ], no. 14)

 

October 22, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 22 October  Comments Off on October 22, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct 232017
 

 

Today I want to talk about conscience. We need to start with the Church’s understanding of the result of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. To be sure, we have all inherited original sin but we Catholics see the fall as being only partial. There is always the tug of the world, the flesh and the devil. In spite of that, we believe that all people, even un-baptized non-Christians, are able to make good, moral choices simply because they are human beings created in the image of God. (Moral Natural Law.) So for example in Romans 2: 15 we hear St. Paul saying that the Gentiles  show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts,  while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them.

To be sure, we Catholic Christians have a decided advantage in the formation of conscience, but others are still endowed with the hope and instruction that a good conscience provides.

The Greek word for “conscience” is synoida which means to “think together.” By the way, this is the basis of our word “synod” which is the gathering of bishops and other holy people to collectively discern the will of God.

The conscience, synoida, implies that one is thinking and reflecting inwardly with God in order to come up with that which God deems is the good and the right thing to do.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote: If…we feel responsibility, are frightened at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed and whose claims upon us we fear.

Conscience is more than just opinion. I rather like the statement in the Youcat, the Church’s revised Catechism for young people. In it we are told that Conscience is the inner voice in [us] that moves [us] to do good under any circumstances and to avoid evil by all means. At the same time it is the ability to distinguish…[between good and evil.] In the conscience God speaks to [us.] (#295)

God’s directives are discerned in that inner voice in which he makes himself known to us. So if anyone of us says with true conviction, “I can’t do this, before the one who causes me to fear and tremble,” then this is God speaking through the conscience. A whole lot of folks have gone to jail or have been martyred because they were true to their consciences.

As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, Anything that is done against conscience is a sin.

After World War II, the Church started doing some very serious reflection on the place and role of the conscience. Finally, when Vatican II came around, Catholic Theologian Karl Rahner wrote that the conscience is the proximate source of moral obligation, and so must be followed even if mistaken; but that we must form our conscience rightly and avoid confusing it with subjective inclination or personal preference. A Catholic must be prepared to accept moral instruction from the Church and never appeal to conscience to make an exception for him (or her)self. If we realize that we may very well have to sacrifice everything or lose our soul, then we would not look for exceptions to be made for us from God’s law and our confessors would not use evasions like “well, follow your conscience” when some hard if sensitive teaching were needed. If in our sinful world God’s law seems unrealistic, the trouble is not with God’s law but with the world—and therefore with us.

Rahner wrote on the verge of a new age in which Christian ethics faced challenges from many quarters, not least from within the Church herself. Vatican II sought to restate and update Catholic moral teaching. Though aware of growing individualism and relativism, the Council seemed optimistic to the point of naïveté about how their words would be received. Many people took up the Council’s views on the dignity and liberty of conscience with greater enthusiasm than they did for its teaching on the duty to inform conscience and exercise that liberty in accord with moral absolutes known to right reason and proclaimed by the Magisterium.

In the heady days right after Vatican II, the conscience often became confused with opinion. The watershed was Pope Paul VI encyclical Humanae Vitae, which in part affirmed the Church’s stance against artificial birth control. A whole lot of people have ignored this teaching. They have rationalized their choice and claimed it was and is a matter of conscience. This was and is linked with a lax attitude toward abortion and other grave moral issues.

St. John Paul II took the opportunity of the 25th anniversary of “Humanæ vitæ” to publish his groundbreaking encyclical “Veritatis splendor.” Here he reasserted the teaching of Vatican II that Christ and the Church instruct definitively in moral matters, and that a well-formed Christian conscience will be informed by such authoritative teaching.  St. John Paul taught us, the faithful, to proceed with obedience of faith, submitting our experiences, insights and wishes to the judgment of the teaching Magisterium. We constantly need to reform ourselves according to the mind of Christ which is authentically transmitted by the Church.

A well-tutored conscience is indispensible for the formation of Godly morality. The magisterium serves the Christian conscience by highlighting and clarifying those truths which a well-formed conscience ought already to possess.  Again the Youcat tells us that No one may be compelled to act against his [or her] conscience, provided that he [or she] acts within the limits of the common good. (#296)  So for example, someone may feel as if an abortion or an act of violent discrimination may be prompted by conscience, but that is simply not true.

And yet, anyone who disregards the conscience of a person, either by ignoring it or by using coercion, violates that person’s dignity. Practically nothing makes a human being more human than the gift of being personally able to distinguish good from evil and to choose between them. This is true even if the decision seems to be wrong. And if anyone is sincere in following the conscience, then God will not hold that person accountable, but he or she had jolly well better be right. The consequences for being wrong could be eternal.

Unless the conscience has been incorrectly and improperly formed, the inner voice speaks in agreement with what the Church deems reasonable, just and good in the sight of God.

In the Epistle lesson today from I Thessalonians, St. Paul tells us that we are enlightened with power and…[the] Holy Spirit and with much conviction.  We are given the promise of help and clarity and specific direction, especially if our goal is to be truly faithful.

In her teaching Dignitas Humanae, Vatican II proclaimed that In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend the sacred and certain doctrines of the Church. For church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth.

It must be said that the first school of conscience is self-criticism. We all have the tendency to judge things to our own advantage. The second school of conscience is orientation to the good actions of others. The correct formation of conscience leads us to that freedom to what has been correctly identified as the “good.” With the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, the Church over her long history has accumulated a vast knowledge about right action; it is part of her mission to instruct people and to give them direction.

For me, all this means is that I darn well better be humble. As a consequence, I embrace the teaching of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman when he said, “I believe what the Catholic Church believes.” and “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” This is the basis of conscience; this is the basis of faith.

 

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

 Week 4 Option for the Poor and Vulnerable  Comments Off on Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Oct 172017
 

A basic moral position in our society is demonstrated by how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, progressive (liberal) and conservative, secular and religious, (etc.) our Catholic Faith emphasizes the importance of the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46)  and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

Scripture

You shall not oppress the poor or vulnerable.   God will hear their cry.

Exodus 22:20-26

20You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. 21You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 22If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. 23My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. 24 If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. 25Ifyou take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; 26for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.

A portion of the harvest is set aside for the poor and the stranger.

Leviticus 19:9-10

9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien. I, the LORD, am your God

Speak out in defense of the poor.

Proverbs 31:8-9

8Open your mouth in behalf of the mute, and for the rights of the destitute; 9Open your mouth, judge justly, defend the needy and the poor!

Don’t delay giving to those in need.

Sirach 4:1-10

My child, do not mock the life of the poor; do not keep needy eyes waiting. 2Do not grieve the hungry, nor anger the needy. 3Do not aggravate a heart already angry, nor delay giving to the needy. 4A beggar’s request do not reject; do not turn your face away from the poor.5From the needy do not turn your eyes; do not give them reason to curse you. 6If in their pain they cry out bitterly, their Rock will hear the sound of their cry. 7Endear yourself to the assembly; before the city’s ruler bow your head. 8Give a hearing to the poor, and return their greeting with deference; 9Deliver the oppressed from their oppressors, right judgment should not be repugnant to you. 10Be like a father to orphans, and take the place of a husband to widows. Then God will call you his child, and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.

True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed.

Isaiah 58:5-7

5Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself? To bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? 7Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?

Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it for Jesus.

Matthew 25: 31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Blessed are the poor, theirs is the kingdom of God.

Luke 6:20-23

20 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. 21Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s good and sees one in need and refuses to help?.

1 John 3:17-18

17If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? 18Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

 

Tradition  

God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we treat others has a transcendent dimension: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2). It corresponds to the mercy which God has shown us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you . . . For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:36-38). What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of “going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters” as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift. (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium. . . ], no. 179)

“The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. . . . “Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church. . . , nos. 2444, 2448, quoting Centisimus annus, no. 57, and Libertatis conscientia, no. 68)

Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. (St. John Paul II, On the Hundredth Year [Centesimus Annus. . . ], no. 58)      The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 86)      The primary purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good. The “option for the poor,” therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 88)

The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion; the production to meet social needs over production for military purposes. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 94)      In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others. (Blessed Paul VI, A Call to Action [Octogesima Adveniens. . . ], no. 23)      “He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of  God abide in him?”  Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.” (Blessed Paul VI, On the Development of Peoples [Populorum Progressio. . . ], no. 23)      Therefore everyone has the right to possess a sufficient amount of the earth’s goods for themselves and their family. This has been the opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the church, who taught that people are bound to come to the aid of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. Persons in extreme necessity are entitled to take what they need from the riches of others.         Faced with a world today where so many people are suffering from want, the council asks individuals and governments to remember the saying of the Fathers:  “Feed the people dying of hunger, because if you do not feed them you are killing them,” and it urges them according to their ability to share and dispose of their goods to help others, above all by giving them aid which will enable them to help and develop themselves. (Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes. . . ], no. 69)

Still, when there is a question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of  the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. (Pope Leo XIII, On the Condition of Labor [Rerum Novarum. . . ], no. 37)

 

Rights and Responsibilities

 Week 3 Rights and Responsibilities  Comments Off on Rights and Responsibilities
Oct 102017
 

The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities: to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Scripture

When a family member is reduced to poverty, we have an obligation to help.

Leviticus 25:35

35When one of your kindred is reduced to poverty and becomes indebted to you, you shall support that person like a resident alien; let your kindred live with you.

Give from what you have received and do not turn away from the poor.

Tobit 4:5-11

5“Through all your days, son, keep the Lord in mind, and do not seek to sin or to transgress the commandments. Perform righteous deeds all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wickedness. 6 For those who act with fidelity, all who practice righteousness, will prosper in their affairs. 7 “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you. 8Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little. 9You will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity. 10For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps one from entering into Darkness. 11Almsgiving is a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who practice it.

Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Isaiah 1:16-20

16Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; 17learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. 18Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD:  Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool. 19If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; 20But if you refuse and resist, you shall be eaten by the sword: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

A legitimate government upholds the rights of the poor and vulnerable.

Jeremiah 22:13-16

13Woe to him who builds his house on wrongdoing, his roof-chambers on injustice; Who works his neighbors without pay, and gives them no wages. 14Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house, with airy rooms,” Who cuts out windows for it, panels it with cedar, and paints it with vermilion. 15Must you prove your rank among kings by competing with them in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And act justly and righteously?  Then he prospered. 16Because he dispensed justice to the weak and the poor, he prospered. Is this not to know me?—oracle of the LORD.

Seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah 29:4-7           4Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. Increase there; do not decrease. 7Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare your own depends.

Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.

Matthew 25:31-46         31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The rich man has a responsibility to care for Lazarus.

Luke 16:19-31

19“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

God’s gifts are  given to be shared.

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. 9As it is written: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.   11You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God, 12for the administration of this public service is not only supplying the needs of the holy ones but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. 13Through the evidence of this service, you are glorifying God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your contribution to them and to all others, 14while in prayer on your behalf they long for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Faith without works is dead.

James 2:14-18

14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? 17So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

 

Tradition  

Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society. Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’. . . ], no. 157) Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. . . . Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si. . . ‘], no. 25)

A link has often been noted between claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centers. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth, [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 43)

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which  is justly made on behalf of human rights, for example, the right to health, to  home, to work, to family, to culture, is false and illusory if the right to  life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other  personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (St. John Paul II, On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful [Christifideles Laici. . . ], no. 38)      We must speak of man’s rights. Man has the right to live.  He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to  be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work;  widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his  own he is deprived of the means of livelihood. (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris. . . ], no. 11)   In human society one man’s natural right gives rise to a  corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and  respecting that right. Every basic human right draws its authoritative force from the natural law, which confers it and attaches to it its respective duty.  Hence, to claim one’s rights and ignore one’s duties, or only half fulfill  them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the  other. (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris. . . ], no. 30) As for the State . . . It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its  people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and  children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the working man. (St. John XXIII, Christianity and Social Progress (Mater et Magistra. . . ), no. 20)