October 30, 2016

A REVOLUTION OF TENDERNESS

A Reflection on our Role as Catholic Citizens

 

Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. Barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination must be overcome. Catholic social teaching supports the rights of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal. It also affirms economic freedom, initiative, and the right to private property. Workers, owners, employers, and unions have a corresponding responsibility to work together to create decent jobs, build a more just economy, and advance the common good. We also note with growing concern the increase in excessive social and economic inequalities as the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to it, and the shrinking middle class.

 

Welfare policy should reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with children, health care, housing, and transportation. Given the link between family stability and economic success, welfare policy should address both the economic and cultural factors that contribute to family breakdown. It should also provide a safety net for those who cannot work. Improving the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits, available as refunds to families in greatest need, will help lift low-income families out of poverty (USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 2015).

 

The key economic issue facing the country today is income inequality and the resultant increase in poverty. This is exacerbated by unjust minimum wages, unequal pay for women, lack of federal paid family leave laws, systematic attacks on labor rights, and high rates of unemployment and incarceration among youth and in communities of color.

 

Unemployment and underemployment harm the long-term fiscal health of our economy. Unemployment also exerts an enormous human toll on our society. When people lose their jobs, they often lose their family’s health insurance as well. Parents who cannot provide for their children are beset not only by bills but too often by emotional struggles as well. College age students who are unable to afford tuition either postpone college, deferring their dreams and facing uncertain job prospects, or work two jobs, thereby making their education less effective. Elderly persons who live on fixed incomes must often choose between heating their homes, taking their medications, or buying their groceries.

 

The economic picture, however, does not extend to all Americans. Large corporations continue to rack up record profits. Hedge fund managers, able to manipulate the tax code, pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries or the people who mow their lawns. In 1980, the wealthier one percent of Americans garnered ten percent of the national income. Today that same top one percent receives twenty-one percent of national income. This increasing gap has significantly distorted our political system due to the role of money in politics, funding candidates, lawmakers, and robust lobbying firms. We need to curtail this trend if we are to have any hope of developing just policies and a genuine democracy.

 

In this rich country of ours, it is a scandal that, instead of focusing on jobs and a living wage, too many in the political class seem focused on budget cuts that will only further constrict economic growth and result in layoffs of those who provide vital services such as firefighters, emergency medical personnel, teachers, and childcare workers.

 

It is appalling that social programs which help the poor are being cut while the super-rich are not asked to contribute their fair share of tax revenue. It is absurd that Congress entertains the idea of cutting Medicare or raising the Social Security retirement age, but refuses to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and the largest, most profitable corporations.

 

Funding to States for federal/state partnership programs must be enhanced. However, mandatory programs supportive of the most vulnerable among us must remain federally mandatory programs, both to protect individuals and households from being considered ineligible and to ensure that funding cuts do not reduce funding levels below what is needed to meet the needs of those who qualify. If we do not ensure these basic needs are met, then we often get stuck in an idolatrous worship of the unregulated market, contrary to the lessons of history and the instructions from our bishops. Such a failure would be impossible to reconcile with the social mission of the Catholic Church.

 

Both corruption and a global economy that considers transnational profits more vital than human lives and human flourishing keep the poor of the world in their poverty. In our own country, too many regularly denounce the pittance our nation spends on international development. Inadequate funding allows new diseases, and old, to continue to kill millions of innocents. We fully support the efforts of organized labor to promote better working conditions for those who labor in sweatshops for substandard wages. We hope the U.S. will pay closer attention to the socio-economic needs of our neighbors in Latin America, where America’s thirst for drugs and abundance of weaponry for export wreak havoc on still fragile democracies.

 

We believe the moral measure of any economic policy must be the measure supplied by Jesus himself: “Whatever you do for these the least of my brethren, you do for me” (Mt 25:40)—taken from A Revolution of Tenderness, www.popefrancis16.com.

 

THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

So consistent is the topic of prayer on the Sundays in Ordinary Time during October that today’s Second Reading begins with Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians that God “make them worthy of his calling.” Paul’s words mean to encourage the church at Thessalonica, already faithfully living the Gospel, to continue their work despite false teachers who seek to incite panic in them that the parousia is imminent. The “day of the Lord” has not already come, but in the time between now and when it comes, Paul advises the Thessalonians to live peacefully and calmly, without anxiety, for God’s grace is with them.

 

Consistent, too, in the Lectionary readings for the Sundays as we draw closer to the end of the liturgical year is the leitmotif of God’s care for his people. The First Reading tells of the enormity of the Lord’s power in relation to the world, which is as “a drop of morning dew.” Yet—and this is the wonderful news—the Lord is merciful to everyone! The Lord loves everyone and everything he created. Because his “imperishable spirit” is in all of us, even when we sin, the Lord corrects us “little by little,” as if a gentle correction is sufficient to set us on the right path again.

 

In Jesus Christ is the example, par excellence, of mercy. This we observe in the Gospel reading, the beloved story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who climbs a tree because his short stature does not allow him to see Jesus from the ground. Ironically, Jesus invites Zacchaeus down from the tree, addressing him by name. Much to the chagrin of those who witnessed the event, Jesus goes home with Zacchaeus. Salvation comes to Zacchaeus’ house the moment Jesus recognizes the tax collector’s faith as he offers repayment to those whom he has cheated.

 

We extol God for his loving mercy and kindness evident to his people in each of this Sunday’s readings, albeit in different ways. The Responsorial Psalm, one of the common psalms for Ordinary Time, gives voice to our praise as we proclaim the Lord our King and God a short three weeks before the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. “Every day” we bless the Lord and “forever” we praise his name. The verses of the psalm provide the basis for our praise emphasizing God’s graciousness, faithfulness, and compassion toward all. All these qualities of God merely reflect the enormity of God’s divine mercy—an important connection to make in this year of mercy.

 

We can sense the approaching conclusion of the liturgical year not only in the readings, but also in the presidential prayers. In the Collect, we pray, “that we may hasten without stumbling to receive the things you [God] have promised,” a share in the Resurrection and the promise of participation in God’s Kingdom. In the Prayer after Communion, we pray that we might receive “what they [the Sacraments] promise,” which we will not fully experience until the Resurrection on the last day.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Holyday of Obligation

 

The apocalyptic symbolism in the text from Revelation (our First Reading) can make the passage challenging to comprehend. Apocalyptic literature speaks of the end-time and often contains destructive images of what will happen to the earth. We hear of an angel from the East with the living God’s seal calling out to four other angels who had the power to harm the earth and sea. Before the group of angels damages the earth and sea, the angel with God’s seal wants to mark God’s servants. A very large number, but still a finite number, 144,000 will be sealed. One hundred forty-four is the square of the number twelve, perhaps representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

The number of people who stand before the “throne and the Lamb” is a “great multitude.” God’s chosen ones come from every nation, people and language. They profess salvation from God and the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb has saved the multitude from trial and distress. This faithful gathering is a vision for us of the saints who also professed salvation through the Cross. Through Baptism, we are a part of this glorious communion and hope one day to enjoy the glory of the throne alongside God and the Lamb.

 

As God’s children, our identity rests on the Father’s love for us. “We are God’s children now,” we hear in the Second Reading. We do not need to wait for the future to be God’s children. We know the Father now and he knows us. And, we believe in the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, whereas some in the Christian community then had difficulties believing in one or the other. Those who believe rightly, then and now, and whose lives consistently live out their belief in Jesus, hope one day that they “shall see him [God] as he is.” That will occur at the resurrection of the dead on the last day.

 

In the Gospel, we hear that the “blessed” are those whose spirits are poor, who are meek and merciful, possess clean hearts, are peacemakers and are persecuted, and have been insulted and slandered. These are God’s chosen. These are the ones who live as disciples of Jesus. They form the Communion of Saints, some of whom are canonically recognized and others, like most of us, did their best to live out their faith.

 

We hear, too, of the gifts of blessedness: comfort, satisfaction, seeing God, an identity as the children of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew wrote for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, so one of his goals was to show how the Kingdom of Heaven was also open to Gentiles, It is not one’s prior life that dictates entry into the Kingdom, but coming to faith in Jesus now and living as his disciple. Would that our example of living the Beatitudes would lead more people in this world to be kingdom people.

 

This year the Solemnity of All Saints on Tuesday, November 1, is an obligatory holyday of obligation. This means that all Catholics are required to participate in Mass on this day not only to honor the Saints but also to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to become a saint as well and that we should do our best to help others to holiness by the good example and the affirmation that we give. Now is the time to plan on what time is best for you to attend Mass on that day. Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the following Masses for the Feast: Monday, October 31, at 5:00 P.M. and on November 1 at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15,

 12:15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 and 6:00 P.M. We offer all these times for Mass so that you will be able to accommodate one of them with your work schedule. We look forward to seeing you on this beautiful holyday.

 

BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE

 

Once again this year we will have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in the names of relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be brought up in procession to the St. Joseph altar during Solemn Vespers at 5:40 P.M. on that day. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.

 

All Souls Day, Tuesday, November 2, is an excellent opportunity to come to Mass to remember and to pray for our deceased parents, family members, relatives and friends. We will have our regular times for Masses, namely, 6:15, 7:15, 8:15, 11:40, 12:15, 1:15 and 5:00 P.M. Either on this day itself or sometime near this date I would encourage you to visit the graves of the deceased if they are buried in a cemetery in the Chicagoland area. As Scripture says, “It is a good and wholesome thing to pray for the dead.”

 

END OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

 

Next Sunday, November 6, Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. Therefore before you go to bed on the Saturday night before, you want to set your clocks back one hour so that you will not arrive for Mass on Sunday at an incorrect time. My experience is that most people remember to do so, although we usually do have a few individuals coming to church wondering why the Mass schedule has been changed.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON

 

During an interview, the Employer asked the Candidate:

 

Employer: How long did you work during your last job?

 

Candidate: 30 years.

 

Employer: What’s your age?

 

Candidate: 20 years.

 

The Employer was surprised and asked the candidate how it is possible that you are 20 and have an experience of 30 years?

 

Candidate: Overtime.