September 10, 2017
As I mentioned last week in this space, I want to summarize the 2017 Labor Day Statement from the United States Bishops, this year written by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, Florida. He begins by saying “This Labor Day we find ourselves at a time of kairos, a moment of crisis as well as opportunity,” and he quotes Pope Francis, who was speaking to workers in Genoa, Italy, “Where there is a worker, there is the interest and the gaze of love of the Lord and of the Church.”
Bishop Dewane continues, “What does our Lord’s ‘gaze of love’ see today? Surely he honors the parents and grandparents who offer their work as ‘prayers said with the hands’ for their family and future. In turn, we thank God for the vocation of work, which, when healthy, ‘anoints’ with dignity, helps children grow into adults, and strengthens cooperation across all people in our society. ‘Brother work,’ in Pope Francis’ words, is formational and sustaining for every human life and community, and is essential to our faith.
“God’s ‘gaze of love’ also receives all those who are struggling with work. A lack of work can be devastating to the human person, and it can undermine solidarity and destabilize society. ‘The entire social pact is built around work. This is the core of the problem. Because when you do not work, or you work badly, you work little or you work too much, it is democracy that enters into crisis, and the entire social pact.’
Our Lord’s ‘gaze of love’ embraces men and women who work long hours without rest to provide for their loved ones, families who move across towns, states, and nations, facing the highest risks and often suffering health crises, women who suffer wage disparities and exploitation, and those who suffer the effects of racism in any setting, including the workplace. Our Lord knows too often, hidden from the world’s view, our brothers and sisters’ dreams for a better life are shattered in unthinkable ways as they become victims of labor trafficking, viciously exploited as mere objects instead of being treated as persons created with God-given dignity….
“Study after study shows that the economy is growing and unemployment is declining, but wages remain stagnant or are decreasing for the vast majority of people, while a smaller percentage collect the new wealth being generated. Economic stresses contribute to a decline in marriage rates, increases in births outside of two-parent households, and child poverty. Economic instability also hurts the faith community, as Americans who have recently experienced unemployment are less likely to go to church, even though such communities can be a source of great support in difficult times. Bound up in economic and social trauma are the increased use of contraception, higher abortion rates, greater abuse of alcohol and drugs, and increases in crime. When unethical labor conditions weaken the social pact, society can become vulnerable to attempts to use fear, and our care and concern for one another can disintegrate into blame and suspicion.
“What, then, is to be done? Pope Francis calls us to action. In his message for the First World Day of the Poor, which will be celebrated later this year, the Pope recalls the words of St. John: ‘Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth’ (1 Jn 3:18). We must be moved to conversion and action.
“The Christian recognizes that the path of reform is not a political or economic program. The Way is Jesus Christ. The human person can encounter him in the Church. The solution to repairing the damage done to economic and social solidarity begins with us following Jesus more closely: for all to become more like the Good Samaritan, and for the Church to become more like the good innkeeper, to whom the afflicted are entrusted. Francis notes that this requires us to ‘become neighbor’ to each person we meet in need, filled with ‘the capacity to suffer with someone else.’ We see a powerful example of this now along the Gulf Coast, where emergency responders and relief workers alike are acting as Good Samaritans to all who are in distress from the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. This is the Christian way to displace fear and blame in society: love that suffers in support of another.
“Worker-owned businesses can be a force for strengthening solidarity, as the Second Vatican Council encouraged businesses to consider ‘the active sharing of all in the administration and profits of these enterprises in ways to be properly determined.’ When decisions are made that greatly affect workers and their families, ‘the workers themselves should have a share also in determining these conditions—in person or through freely elected delegates.’ The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has helped in the formation of many employee-owned companies which provide jobs in communities where work opportunities may be scarce.’
“When workers and labor are properly honored, the social bonds of society are strengthened. Work is not just about individual growth and development. When work finds its proper role in the life of society, Pope Francis explains, it is the great teacher of cooperation and solidarity. Daily work is a form of ‘civil love’ that ‘makes the world live and carry on.’”
(to be continued next week)
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings remind us of our shared responsibility in humanity’s journey to holiness. In the First Reading, God appoints Ezekiel to be a sentry or lookout for Israel. This is the second time that he is called to be a prophet. The first time is described in chapter 3:16-21, but this time the Babylonian army is at the gates, about to destroy Jerusalem, and the devastation will be massive. Ezekiel is told that his destiny depends on the energy he puts into convincing people to change their wicked ways, whether or not they repent.
Of course, conversion is only possible if our hearts are open to hear God’s voice. This is what we pray for in the Responsorial Psalm. The phrase “hardened hearts” is an allusion to the Israelites’ grumbling against God during their Exodus journey.
In the Second Reading, Paul argues that observing God’s Commandments is a shared responsibility. After providing an overview of the Commandments, to which Israel is committed through the Sinai covenant, he summarizes them in a single command—love one another in word and deed.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus provides us with step-by-step directions for calling people to return to the community of faith. Far from delivering a quick and harsh judgment, the ones who have been wronged are directed to use every means possible to bring back the wayward. Shunning or excommunication is the last resort and is intended to make the offender feel the consequences of his offense and want to seek forgiveness.
When the Lord appoints Ezekiel the watchman of the house of Israel, he warns him of his responsibility to try to dissuade the wicked. Should he not tell the wicked to change their ways, the prophet will be responsible for the death that will result. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that it is essential to work for the common good. “In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good” (#1905).
In the Gospel, Jesus counsels the disciples to seek to engage the person who sins against you. The reading concludes by stating that the Father will grant the prayer when two or more are gathered. The Catechism considers the conversion sought when a person seeks out the sinner, “The common good is always oriented toward the progress of persons” (#1912).
For Your Reflection: When has your heart been hardened? What softened it? Would you consider praying over a problem that you have with another? How does our faith assembly help you realize your responsibility to love one another?
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Over the past few days, we have heard and witnessed many heartbreaking stories and images from areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The damage caused by the storm and flooding has been catastrophic, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries, destroyed homes and businesses, and thousands of displaced people seeking shelter. Intense rainfall will continue in Texas and Louisiana throughout the next few days, causing further harm.
During this time of great need, I invite you to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast region. All parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago are strongly encouraged to take up a second collection at all Masses on Saturday, September 9, and Sunday, September 10. Proceeds from this special collection will support the humanitarian and recovery efforts of Catholic Charities USA and provide support to affected dioceses through the USCCB. To donate, please visit http://pvm.archchicago.org/harvey or mail contributions to the following address:
ATTN: Hurricane Harvey Emergency Appeal
Catholic Charities USA
3525 South Lake Park Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Your generous support of this collection will make a difference to our brothers and sisters suffering in the wake of this natural disaster. It is my prayer that as we renew our own archdiocese, we support the renewal of the Gulf Coast Catholic communities that will grapple with its effects for many months to come. With every good wish, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
YOUNG ADULTS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite young adults between the ages of 20-40 to come to the weekly sessions of Saint Peter’s Young Adults on Mondays beginning at 5:30 P.M. with some refreshments and continuing with some input and discussion at 6:00 P.M. The Young Adults Group has taken a few weeks off during the month of August, but they will resume meeting this Monday, September 11.
Once a month the group meets in the friars’ chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reflection on a passage from the Scriptures. Often there is faith sharing and discussion of topics current in the group. Other times there are elements of fun, e.g., an outing in the city such as a baseball game or skating at Millennium Park. Periodically there are also service opportunities at Franciscan Outreach. We promise that each session will conclude by 7:00 P.M. so that you can plan the remainder of your evening according to your needs. Coming to these meetings is a great way to meet new friends and to deepen your Catholic faith. You may stop down to the Saint Clare auditorium at any time; you don’t have to be a member of the group from the very beginning. We hope to see you Monday evening!
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
There was a man in France who drove a train for a living. He loved his job—driving a train had been his dream ever since he was a child. He loved to make the train go as fast as possible. Unfortunately, one day he was a little too reckless and caused a crash. He made it out, but a single person died.
Well, needless to say, he went to court over this incident. He was found guilty and was sentenced to death by electrocution. When the day of the execution came, he requested a single banana as his last meal. After eating the banana, he was strapped into the electric chair. The switch was thrown, sparks flew, and smoke filled the air, but nothing happened. The man was perfectly fine.
At the time there was an old law in France that said a failed execution was a sign of divine intervention, so the man was allowed to go free. And, believe it or not, the man managed to get his old job back driving the train. Having not learned his lesson at all, he went right back to driving the train with reckless abandon. Once again, he caused the train to crash, this time killing two people.
The trial went much the same as the first, resulting in a sentence of execution. For his final meal, he requested two bananas. After eating the bananas, he was strapped into the electric chair. The switch was thrown, sparks flew, smoke filled the room, and the man was once again unharmed, and that meant again he was now free to go.
A third time he manages to get his old job back. To what should have been no surprise to anyone, he crashed yet another train and killed three people, and he was sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, he requested three bananas as his final meal. “You know what? No!” said the executioner. “I’ve had it with you and your stupid bananas and walking out of here unharmed. I’m not giving you a thing to eat. We’re strapping you in and doing this now!”
Well, it was against protocol, but the man was strapped in without a last meal. The switch was pulled, sparks flew, smoke filled the room—and the man was still unharmed. The executioner was speechless.
The man looked at the executioner and said, “Oh, the bananas had nothing to do with it. I’m just a bad conductor.”