August 27, 2017

8-27-17

 

One aspect of being a faithful follower of Jesus is trying to stay abreast of current news and evaluating these events in light of Gospel teaching. It certainly has never been an easy thing to do with so many things happening simultaneously, but it has become even more difficult in light of all the accusations of “fake news” and “alternative views” that have come our way in recent months. Still, it behooves us to do our best to know what is happening and what is being said and then to give it the “Gospel test.”

 

Perhaps you missed the news that during the week of July 14, U.S. refugee admissions reached the historically low cap of 50,000 refugees allowed to be resettled in the United States for Fiscal Year 2017 as set forth by the Administration’s March 6 Executive Order. The Order altered the initial Fiscal Year 2017 Presidential Determination which authorized the resettlement of 110,000 refugees into the United States. Currently there are approximately 22.5 million refugees seeking protection globally.

 

Over 750,000 youth have received protection from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012. While DACA provides no legal status, it does provide recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization for legal work opportunities in the United States. The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans in our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the United States as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

 

President Trump has promised repeatedly that he will honor this pledge. However, one must wonder whether that will be the case when an individual can be forcefully removed from a bus in upper New York state, questioned and then arrested or when a young woman with four children can be pulled over on her way home from work, questioned and found not to have a valid driver’s license, and then deported for her “criminal” behavior. It seems that more and more incidents are occurring when ICE officers are threatening and arresting more youngsters or their parents despite what has been said to be the policy of the federal government.

 

Earlier this month President Trump threw his support behind a plan that would end long-standing family reunification policies in favor of a “merit-based” system for skilled English speakers. The proposal also includes a substantial cut in the annual numbers of legal immigrants allowed into the United States aimed at reducing legal immigration from the current 1.1 million to about half a million over 10 years. President Trump said the measure would “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars” and that “the current system has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.”

 

According to the president, the proposal, the first significant rewriting of the U.S. immigration policy since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, would favor applicants “who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.” He added that the proposals would prevent new U.S. arrivals from collecting welfare and soon lead to new employment opportunities for unskilled U.S. citizens. No studies or statistics have been offered to support this last statement, nor has anyone indicated exactly who would apply to take the many jobs in agriculture, landscaping, restaurants, hotels, etc., that are now filled by immigrants and which are not sought after by most other Americans.

 

Even though nations such as Canada, our neighbor to the north, and Australia, a valued friend for many years, have adopted immigration standards such as those proposed above, it seems to me that we should not totally abandon a policy that has served us so well for decades in order to accommodate these new proposed norms. Congress needs to take all points of view into consideration before going along with what might seem good in the short-term but devastating in the long-term as well as drastically changing our American values.

 

Many commentators have noted that the proposed policy would have likely blocked President Trump’s own grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf, from immigrating to the United States, had it been in place in 1885. At the time of his arrival Drumpf did not speak English, and his immigration record says he had no identifiable skill—or “calling.” The great-grandparents of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller would also have likely been refused entry under the proposed plan, since they spoke only Yiddish. Kellyanne Conway’s great grandfather, too, would have likely been barred for speaking only Italian.

 

And to bring the implications closer to home, I suspect that I would not be an American citizen today if these proposed norms were in effect in the 1880s because my paternal greatgrandfather came to this country speaking only German and with the lone skill of farming, and my maternal grandfather, while he spoke Gaelic, only had the skill of being a hard worker, a good organizer, and a fast talker. However, both of them raised excellent families and provided well for them.

 

In a statement issued on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Most Reverend Joe Vasquez, bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, urged the Senate to reject the proposed legislation and instead to return to negotiating a comprehensive immigration reform package. “Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago,” he said, “many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded.” He continued, “This act would mean that the United States was turning its back on people setting out to build a better life.”

 

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Perhaps you have seen the sculpture of a man chiseling himself out of a block of stone. It represents the self-made person who creates his destiny through intellect and hard work. Today’s readings warn against this illusion and remind us that everything we do is by God’s grace. In the First Reading, God declares that Shebna, the man in charge of King Hezekiah’s palace, will be cast out, presumably because he overstepped his authority and took his position for granted. In his place, God will establish Eliakim and make him part of the royal family. The “key of the house of David” is not an actual key. Rather, it is a symbol of the authority God is conferring. What are Eliakim’s credentials? He is a servant of God.

 

The Second Reading concludes Paul’s teaching on justification by faith. Earlier, Paul had written that, paradoxically, Gentiles who never pursued righteousness receive it, and Jews who sought it do not receive it (that is, through the Law). Thus, Paul marvels that we cannot know God’s mind, but we do know that everything comes to us by God’s grace and not by our own accomplishments.

 

In today’s Gospel, sometimes called “The Great Confession,” Peter professes Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus responds by calling him petros (Greek, meaning “a small rock”) and declaring that he will build his Church on this petra (Greek for “mass of rocky ground”). The meaning of “binding and loosing” is unclear. It may refer to the binding of Satan in exorcism, the power to excommunicate or authority to teach definitive doctrine. Notice, however, that Peter did nothing to earn this position of authority. The revelation came from the Father.

 

Just as in today’s Gospel Jesus tells Peter that “upon this rock I will build my church,” God continues to call leaders to guide the People of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world” (#863).

 

For Your Reflection: Have you ever made it a practice to give God credit for what you have been able to accomplish? How does our faith assembly help the community realize that God has given us all we have? What is your response to Jesus’ query, “Who do you say that I am?”

 

MINISTRY TO THE HOMELESS

 

I recently read a fascinating article in The Tablet (July 15, 2017) about Massimo Bottura, Italy’s star chef, who has opened a number of restaurants in Europe to feed the homeless and vulnerable. This very successful chef says he is inspired by his social conscience and altruistic values which he largely attributes to his Catholic upbringing. He says, “One of the most important things I learnt from growing up in that environment is the real message that the Catholic Church is spreading today—to be for the other, not just for yourself.”

 

For the past few years Bottura has been engaged not in opening new fine dining restaurants, but in the less glitzy role as social campaigner for redistributing what we think of as good waste and turning it into healthy, nutritious meals for those who do not have enough to eat. He has organized a not-for-profit called Food for Soul and has teamed up with food waste charity, the Felix Project, which collects high quality, fresh food destined for the bin from 60 retailers, some independents and some major supermarkets. The food is taken back to the purpose-built kitchen and turned into lunch for the homeless and vulnerable, Monday to Friday every week.

 

Bottura also insists that the place where the food is served is “a cultural project where the dignity of people can be rebuilt. Through beauty, through art, through a beautiful space, we can say to everyone, ‘Welcome!’” As a sincere Catholic, this amazing chef saw what he was trying to do as fulfilling what Pope Francis has articulated so often, namely, that the Church and the Catholic faithful need to be concerned about the peripheries, and those can be right in the middle of our larger cities. So far restaurants have been opened in Milan, Rio de Janiero, and London, with several more locations in the planning stages. Recently he received word that he will receive a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that will enable him to open three refettorios  in the United States. The cities are not yet confirmed, but he surmises, “let’s say in the Bronx, in Detroit and –my dream because I’m so passionate about jazz—in New Orleans.”

 

“Every place we go, we use different waste ingredients and try to use our knowledge to make the invisible visible.” What he means by that is there is no necessarily set menu each day. Whatever comes into the kitchen from the markets and agencies is used creatively to prepare wholesome meals. He trains his volunteer cooks to take what is offered and to make something delicious…to see “what they regard as waste—be it stale breadcrumbs or overripe tomatoes—as just another ingredient.” What all this reminds me of is, in a sense, a modern day version of the multiplication of the loaves: taking a few loaves, blessing them, rearranging them, and finally feeding those in need.

 

Here at St. Peter’s earlier this month we celebrated what we have called “Franciscan Week 2017.” Part of that celebration has included a pictorial display of some of the homeless individuals who have been guests of Franciscan Outreach and who now have a new life because of the assistance they received there. These men and women share their personal stories, including the circumstances that have led them to becoming homeless, the steps they are taking to overcome personal challenges, the barriers they face to finding employment and housing, and their goals. Part of that help they received was knowing there would be a hot meal each evening. Franciscan Outreach, like the refettorios spoken about above, relies on donations of food, volunteers and many hands to make the dinners and all the services for the poor and homeless to happen.

 

Unfortunately because of a decreasing number of volunteers, Franciscan Outreach has had to discontinue the evening meal on Saturdays and Sundays. If you would like some information, or would like to donate or to volunteer at Franciscan Outreach, please contact Mr. Ed Jacob or Br. Doug Collins, O.F.M. at 1645 West LeMoyne, Chicago, Illinois 60622 or by telephone at 773-278-6724. You can also reach them at www.franoutreach.org. We want to see this wonderful ministry continue for years to come and to make sure that many more people would be available for “Portraits of Homelessness in Chicago” in the future.

 

SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND

 

As we announced in the bulletin last week, the bishops of the United States have authorized a new one-time second collection to complete the work on the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. All parishes will take up this special collection on August 26-27, 2017.

 

The specific purpose of this collection is to complete the Trinity Dome, the central and largest dome of the Basilica. This “Crowning Jewel” will be adorned in mosaic and will depict the Most Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception, and a procession of saints who have an association with America and the Basilica. The Nicene Creed will encircle the base of the dome, while the dome’s pendentives will feature the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you wish more information, you may visit www.trinitydome.org and/or www.nationalshrine.org for more details.

 

If you have never visited the National Shrine, I would encourage you to place it on your itinerary the next time you are in Washington, D.C.

 

A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE

 

I went to see my doctor, and he suggested that I do some exercises. Here is the regimen that I have adopted for the time being:

 

  1. Jump to conclusions
  2. Climb the walls
  3. Drag my heels
  4. Push my luck
  5. Make mountains out of molehills
  6. Bend over backwards
  7. Run in circles
  8. Put my foot in my mouth

 

So far the exercises have been going very well!