Fr. Bryce McProud

November 5, 2017 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 05 November  Comments Off on November 5, 2017 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
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)

 

October 8, 2017 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Oct 082017
 

 Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Let’s take a look at today’s parable. The standard interpretation is that God is the Landowner, the Vineyard is Israel, the agents are the prophets and Jesus is the Son. Although this is foundational, I’d like to come at it from a slightly different angle.

So, we have a landowner who is being given the run around by his tenants. They no longer want to pay their rent. These tenants want to be in control; they want to own the vineyard if you will. However, it is not for sale and it never will be. The owner is not looking for buyers.  He is looking for tenants who will give him his fair share of the produce at harvest time, and this is the key part, the real issue is stewardship, a word that puts many of us on the defensive because it challenges our sense of entitlement and ownership.

With few exceptions, we have worked hard for what we have; we have deeds and titles and fence lines to prove ownership of our property. We have registered land plats and mortgage payment books and tax bills and home owners insurance, all with our names on them. We have gone to a lot of trouble to get these things and hanging on to them requires no small amount of financial courage but according to today’s Gospel lesson we are simply deluding ourselves.

Our ancestors became divine tenants thousands of years ago; it was so far back that most of us have forgotten the circumstances. Somewhere along the way someone misplaced or ignored the tenants’ agreement and wrote up a deed instead, saying that we now own the property instead of leasing it and that is the basis of the problem in this parable.

In the story today, the Landowner—representing God—spent most of his time in a far off place.  His absence made him really, really easy to ignore. When he sent messengers to remind the tenants of their agreement, they said, “You have been gone so long and have been so undemanding that we’ve decided that things have changed. This vineyard, this land, is now ours.”

All it took was a little bravado and a couple of bursts of violence and—bada bing— the agents of the land owner who were still alive ran away empty-handed.

The owner could have sent the police or the sheriff or even recruited his own army of thugs. He could have returned violence for violence but he did not. He just kept sending messengers, one after another, each of them pleading with the tenants to come to their senses and honor their agreement with the landowner.

Finally, when there was a whole row of unmarked graves full of messengers outside the vineyard walls, the owner sent his son, unaccompanied and unarmed, to teach the tenants things they had clearly forgotten or had opted not to learn. He reminded them that they were stewards and tenants, not owners. In fact they were guests on the earth. He even might have reminded them of Psalm 24:1—“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…” It’s all His—none of it was theirs—or now ours.

The Son reminded them that being guests placed them in relationship with the landowner who also was their host, who also placed them in relationship with each other, and once they got over their delusions of ownership, these relationships, with him and others, could be based on our gratitude, not our fear, nor our resentment nor a false sense of security, nor even the mere desire for power.

He reminded them that as guests they had free access to far more than they could ever have earned for themselves. All he asked was that they take care of the vineyard and that they give him a prescribed portion of what they produced; not because he needed it, for he turned around immediately and gave it away, but they needed to be constantly reminded that they were tenants and stewards and not owners.

They needed to give, in order to remember who they were: grateful tenants and stewards who took their lives and the fruits of their efforts from the Lord’s favor and returned the favor by giving a portion of their largess back to him and to others.

The Son probably reminded them of the Hebrew Scriptures that God, the land owner, gave instructions on paying what they owed to him by giving to others. There’s a good chance he reminded them of the importance of honoring God with the “first fruits” of their labor. Most likely, he shared with them that they would be greatly blessed by so doing. He may have quoted Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce—then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

He may even have told them of God’s confrontation through the prophet Malachi, referring to the only place in scripture that God challenges his people to test him. God says: “…you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and your offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me.  [What can we do?, we may ask. The answer God says is to…] Bring the full tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and thereby PUT ME TO THE TEST’ says the Lord of hosts. [See] if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down on you an overflowing blessing.” (Mal.3:8-10) By the way, this is the only place in all of the scriptures where God commands us to test him. In all other places we are warned not to test him. I think this was the son’s message.

But in the parable, the tenants weren’t buying it; they killed the son but he would not stay dead and to this day he challenges the tenants and stewards, reminding us that we are God’s guests, welcome on this earth and loved with a fierce love, all the while being reminded that we are not the owners. There is also the warning that violence will befall us if we do not heed.

All this is right in the wheelhouse of Pope Francis’s teachings, especially his 191 page encyclical on the environment, Laudato si. Although the Holy Father doesn’t hold much back about our troubling stewardship of the earth, I would like to share a word of hope with you. He writes:

…all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start. He does offer a word of hope. We can change our ways. And what does that mean?, we may ask.

Well to start, we must not spurn the owner and persecute his messengers because to do that is to court our own destruction. To do that is to forget, or ignore, who we are and what our purpose here is. We are God’s sharecroppers. We tend the earth and reap it’s riches on God’s behalf. We can love this vineyard, this earth, as our own. We can water it by hand and build fires against the frost and take deep pleasure in the harvest. We can even will pieces of it to our children or sell our part of the tenancy to others. But we are expected to represent God’s interests, being as generous with each other as God is with us. We are not owners. We were never meant to be owners. It may fly in the face of much of what we have been taught, but it is the way of the Kingdom of God and I will tell you, if we abide by God’s rules, the harvest will take your breath away.

 

 

 

 

Call to Family, Community, and participation

 Week 2 Call to Family, Community, and Participation  Comments Off on Call to Family, Community, and participation
Oct 032017
 

The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.  Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. [Think the “Domestic Church.”]

We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. 

Scripture

It is not good for man to be alone

Genesis 2:18

18The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.

Genesis 4:3-15

I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper

In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground, 4while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected. 6Then the LORD said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? 7If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.

8Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9Then he LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10God then said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11Now you are banned from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth. 13Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. 14Look, you have now banished me from the ground. I must avoid you and be a constant wanderer on the earth. Anyone may kill me at sight.” 15Not so! the LORD said to him. If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged seven times. So the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight.

If you act justly with one another, God will dwell in the land.

Jeremiah 7:5-7 Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; 6if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, 7only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever.

Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God.

Micah 6:6-8    

6 With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow before God most high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my crime, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  8 You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12-17 15I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17This I command you: love one another.      

Life among the believers.

Acts 2:43-47 42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. 46Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We are one body, individually members one of another.

Romans 12:4-8 4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Rouse one another to love and good works.

Hebrews 10:24-25   24We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. 25We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Our faith is dead if we ignore others in need.

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.

We ought to lay down our lives for one another.

1 John 3:16-18 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.

Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters.

1 John 4:19-21 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 

Tradition  

*Family

“The family is thus an agent of pastoral activity through its explicit proclamation of the Gospel and its legacy of varied forms of witness, namely solidarity with the poor, openness to a diversity of people, the protection of creation, moral and material solidarity with other families, including those most in need, commitment to the promotion of the common good and the transformation of unjust social structures, beginning in the territory in which the family lives, through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.” (Pope Francis, On Love in the Family [Amoris Laetitia. . . ], no. 290, quoting the Final Report of the Synod of Bishops, 10/24/15)

Economic and social policies as well as organization of the work world should be continually evaluated in light of their impact on the strength and stability of family life. The long-range future of this nation is intimately linked with the well-being of families, for the family is the most basic form of human community.  Efficiency and competition in the marketplace must be moderated by greater concern for the way work schedules and compensation support or threaten the bonds between spouses and between parents and children. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 93)

The first and fundamental structure for a “human  ecology” is the family . . . founded on marriage, in which the  mutual gift of self as husband and wife creates an environment in which  children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their  dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny. (St. John Paul II, On the Hundredth Year [Centesimus Annus. . . ], no. 39)

Insofar as it is a “small-scale Church,”[AKA “the Domestic Church”] the Christian family is called upon, like the “large-scale Church,” to be a sign of unity for the world and in this way to exercise its prophetic role by bearing witness to the Kingdom and peace of Christ, towards which the whole world is journeying. Christian families can do this through their educational activity, that is to say by presenting to their children a model of life based on the values of truth, freedom, justice and love-both through active and responsible involvement in the authentically human growth of society and its institutions, and by supporting in various ways the associations specifically devoted to international issues. (St. John Paul II, The Family in the Modern World [Familiaris Consortio. . . ], no. 48)

Community/Participation

Local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. . . . Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si. . . ’], nos. 179, 219) People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium. . . ], no. 220, quoting United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, Nov. 2007, no. 13) Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 57)      The primary norm for determining the scope and limits of governmental intervention is the ”principle of subsidiarity” cited above. This principle states that, in order to protect basic justice, government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacities of individuals or private groups acting independently. Government should not replace or destroy smaller communities and individual initiative. Rather it should help them contribute more effectively to social well-being and supplement their activity when the demands of justice exceed their capacities. This does not mean, however, that the government that governs least governs best. Rather it defines good government intervention as that which truly “helps” other social groups contribute to the common good by directing, urging, restraining, and regulating economic activity as ”the occasion requires and necessity demands”.  (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 124) In order that the right to development may be fulfilled by action:  (a) people should not be hindered from attaining development in accordance with  their own culture; (b) through mutual cooperation, all peoples should be able  to become the principal architects of their own economic and social  development. (World Synod of Catholic Bishops, Justice in the World [Justica in Mundo. . . ], no. 71) But God did not create man as a solitary, for from the beginning “male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Their companionship produces the primary form of interpersonal communion. For by his innermost nature man is a social being and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential. (Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes. . . ], no. 12)

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*What you own belongs to the Lord and is given for the good of all.

Leviticus 25:23-43 23The land shall not be sold irrevocably; for the land is mine, and you are but resident aliens and under my authority. 24Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must permit the land to be redeemed. 25When one of your kindred is reduced to poverty and has to sell some property, that person’s closest relative, who has the duty to redeem it, shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. 26If, however, the person has no relative to redeem it, but later on acquires sufficient means to redeem it, 27the person shall calculate the years since the sale, return the balance to the one to whom it was sold, and thus regain the property.28But if the person does not acquire sufficient means to buy back the land, what was sold shall remain in the possession of the purchaser until the year of the jubilee, when it must be released and returned to the original owner. 29 When someone sells a dwelling in a walled town, it can be redeemed up to a full year after its sale—the redemption period is one year. 30But if such a house in a walled town has not been redeemed at the end of a full year, it shall belong irrevocably to the purchaser throughout the generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31However, houses in villages that are not encircled by walls shall be reckoned as part of the surrounding farm land; they may be redeemed, and in the jubilee they must be released. 32 In levitical cities the Levites shall always have the right to redeem the houses in the cities that are in their possession. 33As for levitical property that goes unredeemed—houses sold in cities of their possession shall be released in the jubilee; for the houses in levitical cities are their possession in the midst of the Israelites. 34Moreover, the pasture land belonging to their cities shall not be sold at all; it must always remain their possession. 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. 36Do not exact interest in advance or accrued interest,* but out of fear of God let your kindred live with you. 37 Do not give your money at interest or your food at a profit. 38I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

39 When your kindred with you, having been so reduced to poverty, sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40Rather, let them be like laborers or like your tenants, working with you until the jubilee year, 41when, together with any children, they shall be released from your service and return to their family and to their ancestral property. 42Since they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, they shall not sell themselves as slaves are sold. 43Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God.

 

 

October 1, 2017 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 01 October  Comments Off on October 1, 2017 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct 012017
 

 Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Tension is rife in today’s Gospel lesson. The setting is Tuesday in Holy Week. Jesus has made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem with an overwhelming ovation and the city is abuzz with rumors and anticipation: “Is this the Messiah? What’s going to happen?” We see in the text that Jesus is in the Temple and he’s having a significant dust-up with the Chief Priests and the Elders of the People. They are feeling threatened and are both defensive and looking for a reason—any reason— to have this self-proclaimed Messiah put in his place.

It’s not going well for the Chief Priests and Elders, they are getting testier, and as we know their reaction is going to get Jesus crucified. Consider their mind-set; they have witnessed this popular Galilean teacher enter their city in a Messianic fashion. They have watched in horror and outrage as he trashed the whole sacrificial system of worship by driving out the money changers with a whip, and he has announced the Temple’s destruction, implying that he has authority that is much greater than theirs. They are more than threatened and so they confront him publically and at length.

In the preceding section of the scriptures they ask: “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you that authority?” (vs. 23): Authority has become the central issue.

This particular confrontation started when Jesus asked the chief priests and elders questions about the authority of St. John the Baptist and because the atmosphere was so fraught with political explosiveness, they punted. They chose not to undermine their own authority by affirming the authority of John, and at the same time they were also aware of how popular John was and the crowd was edgy enough without firing them up by refuting John’s authority. So they said that they’ didn’t know.

Jesus responded by saying that since they wouldn’t answer, neither would he. But the whole thing comes down to Jesus’ Messianic authority and whether or not folks were going to submit to it. Jesus then told the little parable about the two sons, the first said that he would not be dutiful, then repented and was obedient. The second said that he would do what was required of him, and then refused. As we know, the first one who repented is the model for faithfulness.

Faithfulness is a matter of submitting to authority. The question is who’s authority? For Christians, it is the authority of Christ. And the primary place for discerning the authority of Christ is the Catholic Church. The basis of Catholic teaching and belief is that Christ’s authority has been passed on to the Church, the Catholic Church. Let me tell you why I have accepted it and continue to submit to it after living the first 60 years of my life as a Protestant.

First this authority is historical. In the little one chapter NT book of Jude, in the third verse, there is this phrase that refers to the “faith which was once for all delivered.”  In other words, the faith of Jesus was delivered to the first century apostles and in turn it has been handed on through the centuries by means of the apostolic succession of bishops and this faith has been delivered to us today.

This is the Faith of Jesus and it is supremely authoritative. This faith is conveyed to us through the teaching Magisterium and it transmits to us what Christ would have us believe and do and what we do not believe nor should we do. Over the years we’ve often had to have the faith explained through the teaching of ecumenical councils and the prayerful reflections of Popes and bishops and some of the concepts have had to be developed, but there has always been one faith that has been passed along to the Church. That is basis of our authority and it is an historical authority.

My second reason is that this authority is objective. In other words, it couldn’t be subject to my personal whims or the whims of some vote by a Church convention. A 50% plus one vote is not authoritative enough to say that abortion is ok or that the definition of marriage can be changed, let alone issues like the nature of the Eucharist or the question of the Incarnation of Christ. These latter points had to be settled by Church councils.

This authority had to operate within the very fibers of the Church itself. To prove its objectivity, this authority had to be spread out over a large number of people, over a long period of time while remaining consistent in its themes and purpose. The Catholic Church has been faithful and consistent for 2000 years.

Third—connected with the criterion of objectivity— is that this authority is universal. As you know, Catholic means universal. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 396) said that “The Church is called Catholic because it extends through all the world…because it teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which ought to come to man’s knowledge…because it brings under the sway of true religion all classes of men, rulers, and subjects, learned and ignorant; and because it universally treats and cures every type of sin…and possesses in itself every kind of virtue which can be named…and spiritual gifts of every kind.” (Catechetical Lectures 18.23) The Church cannot be the voice of just one person, one nationality, one theological grouping or one pressure group. This authority has to transcend geographical, cultural and intellectual boundaries. Not only does this authority have to be universal in geographic terms, it also has to transcend time as well. It has to be universal down through the ages, connecting authentically with every age.

But if this authority is universal it must also be particular. This fourth trait means that this authority must be practical and applicable in a particular place and through a particular person. It cannot be just a vague ‘body of teaching’ determined by majority vote, nor can it be some kind of ‘consensus of the faithful’ at a particular time and place, something that is subject to change 10 years from now. However, if it is particular, then it also has to be able to speak to particular problems and circumstances. A particular authority will apply the universal truths of the gospel to particular problems with confidence.

Fifth, this authority is intellectually satisfying. Unlike some traditions, the Catholic faith has not been “dumbed down.” While it must be simple enough for every person to understand and obey, it also must be challenging enough for the world’s greatest intellects. As St. Jerome, whose feast day is today, said of Scripture, ‘it must be shallow enough for a lamb to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim.’ This authority must be intellectually coherent within itself and it must be able to engage confidently with all other intellectual religious and philosophical systems. Furthermore, if it is intellectually satisfying, it must offer a world view which is complete without being completely closed. In other words, there must be both answers and questions which still remain.

Sixth, this authority is Scriptural. The Church’s authority is rooted in Holy Scripture. Because it is Scriptural it also looks to the Bible continually as a source of inspiration and guidance. While this authority flows from Scripture it also confirms Scripture and the Church offers the right interpretation of various texts with confidence, never contradicting Scripture as a whole, but always working to further illuminate Holy Writ. In fact,“ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ!” insisted St. Jerome. So to review, I accept and submit to the authority of the Catholic Church for six reasons:

  1. The authority is historical.
  2. It is objective.
  3. It is universal.
  4. It is practical and applicable in particular places and through particular people.
  5. It is intellectually satisfying.
  6. It is based on Sacred Scripture.

The authority of the Catholic Church fulfils all six of these traits. They show that the Church’s authority is not ephemeral and merely human, but is of divine origin; in other words much of it has been revealed by God. Obviously there are many, many more reasons to accept and submit to the authority of the Church. This is at best a partial list. The point is that I need reasons to say “yes” when the Father instructs me to go work in the vineyard of the Lord and these in part are my reasons. And more importantly, I want to follow through, especially during times of great stress and tension. That is the essence of being faithful.