Perhaps one of the most dreaded national holidays is celebrated this weekend, namely, Labor Day. Why do I say dreaded? Well, for most of us it signals what we traditionally think of as the end of summer, although this year many people wonder whether we have ever had summer. Secondly, for young people (grade school, high school and college) it signals the beginning of another school year, and for many this is not a happy thought. Too often in our minds we pass over the beautiful season of fall and immediately think of winter with super cold temperatures, ice, snow, and cabin fever. I, for one, am going to take the high road and think positively, namely, that this is going to be one of the most gorgeous fall seasons in a long time and that both the Bears and the Bulls will have excellent seasons!
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, shares the following for our consideration and reflection on this Labor Day:
“Pope Francis reminds us that work ‘is fundamental to the dignity of a person. It anoints us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, and to contribute to the growth of one’s own nation.’ Work helps us realize our humanity and is necessary for human flourishing. Work is not a punishment for sin but rather a means by which we make a gift of ourselves to each other and our communities. We simply cannot advance the common good without decent work and a strong commitment to solidarity.
“Labor Day gives us the chance to see how work in America matches up to the lofty ideals of our Catholic tradition. This year, some Americans who have found stability and security are breathing a sigh of relief. Sporadic economic growth, a falling unemployment rate, and more consistent job creation suggest that the country may finally be healing economically after years of suffering and pain. For these men and women, and their children, this is good news.
“Digging a little deeper, however, reveals enduring hardship for millions of workers and their families. The poverty rate remains high, as 46 million Americans struggle to make ends meet. The economy continues to fail in producing enough decent jobs for everyone who is able to work, despite the increasing numbers of retiring baby boomers. There are twice as many unemployed job seekers as there are available jobs, and that does not include the seven million part-time workers who want to work full-time. Millions more, especially the long-term unemployed, are discouraged and dejected.
“More concerning is that our young adults have borne the brunt of this crisis of unemployment and underemployment. The unemployment rate for young adults in America, at over 13 percent, is more than double the national average of 6.2 percent. For those fortunate enough to have jobs, many pay poorly. Greater numbers of debt-strapped college graduates move back in with their parents, while high school graduates and others may have less debt but very few decent job opportunities. Pope Francis has reserved some of his strongest language for speaking about young adult unemployment, calling it ‘evil,’ an ‘atrocity,’ and emblematic of the ‘throwaway culture….’
“Our challenge this Labor Day is to rise to the challenge of solidarity posed by Jesus when he commanded, ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another’ (Jn 13:34). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches ‘Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples’ (#1941). Since each of us is made in the image of God and bound by His love, possessing a profound human dignity, we have an obligation to love and honor that dignity in one another, and especially in our work.
“What would our communities, parishes, and country look like if we all recommitted to each other and the common good? If, instead of lamenting the dwindling hopes of our young people, we create institutions, relationships, and an economy that nurture human flourishing? If, instead of bickering about ideologies, people acknowledged the human dignity of others and worked together?
“At their best, labor unions and institutions like them embody solidarity while advancing the common good. They help workers ‘not only have more, but above all, be more…and realize their humanity more fully in every respect’ (Laborem Exercens, #20). Yes, unions and associations are imperfect, as are all human institutions. But the right of workers to freely associate is supported by Church teaching in order to protect workers and move them—especially younger ones, through mentoring and apprenticeships—into decent jobs with just wages.
“As a nation of immigrants, we recognize that a vibrant and just economy requires the contributions of everyone. Those who come seeking decent work to support their families by and large complement, rather than displace, American workers. But we need to fix our broken immigration system to stop the exploitation and marginalization of millions of people as well as address the development needs of other countries. In doing so, we would also level the playing field among workers, provide more opportunity for all who can work, and bring about a needed ‘change of attitude toward migrants and refugees’ (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees).
“Supporting policies and institutions that create decent jobs, pay just wages, and support family formation and stability will also honor the dignity of workers. Raising the minimum wage, more and better workforce training programs, and smarter regulations that minimize negative unintended consequences would be good places to start.
“In doing this, we follow the lead of Pope Francis in rejecting an economy of exclusion and embracing an authentic culture of encounter. Our younger generations are counting on us to leave them a world better than the one we inherited.”
The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, but the vital force of labor has added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known. It has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom and leadership—the American worker. Let’s also remember all those who are currently unemployed and therefore are still looking for satisfactory work.
Enjoy a parade, a family picnic, fireworks, the Jazz Festival, the lunchtime concerts at Millennium Park, some time at the beach, etc. We invite you to begin your Labor Day here at St. Peter’s with Mass at 10:00 A.M. The church will open at 9:00 and will close no later than 11:00 A.M. Enjoy your holiday and come back refreshed for the remainder of the week.
TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are not words we would expect to hear from a prophet of God. “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped,” he complains. His call as a prophet has led to “derision and reproach all the day” as he announces God’s word to the people. Jeremiah learns that our ways are not God’s ways and that sometimes the work of a prophet meets resistance and involves suffering—an idea reflected in today’s Gospel as well. But still he perseveres because of his faith in God.
Paul encourages the Romans to make the sacrifice required as disciples. “Do not conform yourselves to this age,” he writes; we are to strive to “discern what is the will of God.” Sometimes we face difficulties in doing this. But Paul encourages perseverance, for we know that God will reward our faithfulness. If God’s only Son suffered for his faith, then we too may be called to suffer. But as God glorified Christ, so too will we be given a share in that glory.
Messianic expectations in Jesus’ day varied. Some expected a royal figure, others a military leader, and still others a religious Messiah. One thing is certain: people’s expectations of a Messiah did not include a figure who would suffer and die. This helps us understand Peter’s response to Jesus’ prediction of his Passion for the first time in Matthew. Peter rejects the idea that Jesus must suffer and die. “God forbid, Lord,” he protests. And now Jesus, who in the last episode had just given the disciple the name Peter (Rock), addresses him as “Satan” because he is not thinking “as God does, but as human beings do.” For in order to follow Christ, we must carry our own crosses.
For reflection: Has my faith brought suffering? How did I respond to it? How does Christ’s suffering add to my understanding of God?
DECLARATION OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE ON IRAQ
The whole world watches, amazed, at what is now called “the restoration of the Caliphate,” which was abolished October 29, 1923, by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Despite most Muslim religious and political institutions contesting that “restoration,” it has not prevented the jihadists “Islamic State” to commit and continue to commit unspeakable criminal acts.
The Pontifical Council, all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, the followers of all religions as well as men and women of good will can only denounce and condemn unambiguously these shameful practices of man:
--the slaughter of people solely because of their religious belief;
--the abhorrent practice of beheading, crucifixion and hanging corpses in public places;
--the choice imposed on Christians and Yazidis between conversion to Islam, payment of tax (jizya) or exodus;
--the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and the sick;
--the kidnapping of girls and women belonging to the Yazidi and Christian communities as war booty;
--the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;
--the destruction of places of worship and Christian-Muslim mausoleums;
--the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;
--the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols and those of other religious communities;
--the destruction of the invaluable, Christian religious and cultural heritage;
--the abject violence that terrorizes people into surrendering or fleeing.
No cause can justify such barbarity and certainly not a religion. This is an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God, who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often said.
We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together—it is true with many ups and downs—over the centuries, building a culture of friendliness and a civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that in recent years the dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and deepened.
The plight of Christians, Yazidis and many other religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue, and everyone of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and denouncing the invocation of religion to justify them. Otherwise what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? Even after patiently pursuing interreligious dialogue in recent years, what credibility will there be?
Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence on rulers to help end these crimes, punish those who commit them, and restore the rule of law throughout the country, ensuring that those expelled return home. Recalling the need for ethics in running humane societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.
That being said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have raised their voices to condemn terrorism, especially those who use religion to justify it.
We unite our voice with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up every genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is conquered by peace.”
SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND
Fr. Robert Karris, O.F.M. will be at St. Peter’s next weekend (September 6-7) to speak about FOOD FOR THE POOR, a wonderful organization that assists the struggling poor people in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras and nine other countries in South and Central America. Food for the Poor has a long-standing record of using money donated for the benefit of countless families who have lived in abject poverty for years. He will tell us about some of the many success stories that have been accomplished. You were extremely generous two years ago to his appeal; please come prepared to do the same once again next weekend.
SCRIPTURE STUDY OPPORTUNITIES
Wednesday Evenings: Are you looking for a new way to deepen your Biblical knowledge, increase your faith, bring you to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, and make some new friends along the way? This Scripture study group may be just the right opportunity for you. Join Jim Hawk, a cradle Catholic who left the Catholic Church for 28 years before discovering the fullness of truth in Catholicism. We will continue through the New Testament book by book, covering Hebrews through Revelation from a distinctly Catholic perspective. Along the way, we will examine some of the apparent “contradictions” in Scripture as well as the three words that can separate Christians.
Once again this year we will meet on Wednesdays from 5:30 P.M. in the auditorium and end promptly at 7:00 P.M. You can join in at any time of the year, but we hope most people will join us from the beginning if at all possible. The first session is on Wednesday, September 10th. And BYOB (Bring Your Own Bible!) If you have any questions, you may e-mail Jim Hawk at [email protected]. There will also be an opportunity for fellowship after each class at a nearby establishment for those who wish.
Friday Mid-Day: Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M. leads a Scripture Study based on the forthcoming Scriptures for the following Sunday. This gives the group a chance to prepare to hear the Scriptures when they are proclaimed in parish churches during Sunday worship. Fr. Lawrence gives a presentation on the background of these Scriptures and then answers questions until the end of the period. The group meets every Friday from 12:10-12:50 in the auditorium.
THE YEAR OF THE SACRAMENTS
One Word at a Time
We Catholics say things like this all the time: get the baby baptized, get married, and—even—get ordained. The getting speaks of a momentary ritual, holy no doubt but then finished. After you get something, you’ve got it. But there is a mistake in thinking about the sacraments this way. We don’t get them as much as they get us. What do I mean?
The sacraments surely have a focused ritual moment, but they also lead us beyond the moment. The sacraments are meant to shape the way we live. From the moment we are baptized or married or ordained or whatever sacrament we celebrate, that particular sacrament ushers us into a new way of living. It begins—if we are open and responsive to it—a new and fresh pattern of life as a disciple of Jesus or as a sign of God’s love in the world or as a shepherd extending the Good Shepherd’s care. Clearly, God’s creative hand is here at work in our lives.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
Two Irish gentlemen walk into a pub. They both sit down at the counter and place their orders. As they’re sipping their drinks, one looks at the other and thinks that there’s something familiar about him. The guy says to the other, “Hey, do I know you from somewhere?” to which the other responds, “Well, I’m from Galway—where are you from?” The first guy brightens up and says, “You don’t say! I’m from Galway as well! What school did you go to?” The other responds, “I went to St. Paul’s Secondary,” to which the first replies, “My God! I went there as well! What year did you graduate?” The second says, “I finished in 1977. You?” The first becomes even more animated and says, “I did as well! I knew that I recognized you from somewhere!”
Anyway, they get to buying each other drinks and start reminiscing about school and all that, when another guy walks into the pub. He says to the barkeep, “Hey, Liam, what’s new? I haven’t been around in a while.” The barkeep responds, “Ah, not a whole lot of anything really. Except the O’Flaherty twins are drunk again.”