September 2, 2018
The Labor Day holiday weekend has always been a favorite of mine since it occurs after the dog days of August which have a way of de-energizing a person due to the heat and the humidity. September is a much more pleasant month from a weather perspective, and I’m told many wonderful people have been born in that month! Even though schools used to begin just after Labor Day, still getting back into the regular routine and meeting classmates again was great.
Labor Day was established some time ago as a means of labor unions emphasizing the importance of work and the justice issues that surround the rights of workers. Of course it was meant to offer a holiday not only for workers but also for their families in order to celebrate the meaning of the holiday through parades and picnics organized for this purpose. Labor unions in times past were a powerful force to insure workers of a safe environment, health and retirement benefits, a just and living wage, and the ability to join together as a force to negotiate with employers for the good of all. The Church has been in the forefront of underscoring the right of workers to organize, dating back to the time of the Industrial Revolution and the early 1900s.
In our day it seems that labor unions have lost some of their luster, especially in some states where they are actually discouraged or undercut. What matters most is that job production is heightened so that qualified candidates can find a decent job and that job security is assured. There certainly are some companies that have established a solid relationship between management and labor where a union is not necessary and where profit sharing and other benefits are put in place to the advantage of all parties. Employers and investors have a right to a reasonable profit as long as employees who do the work also receive a just return for their labor. Most importantly in an age when machines and robots have advanced to sometimes replace the human work force, we need to balance the good of workers with the development of new techniques for manufacturing a product.
In order for a society and an economy to prosper, it is necessary that all levels of the populace have jobs available to them in order to make a living. It is true that just because jobs are available does not mean that everyone will apply for them. Some people may be left out because of their particular circumstances, e.g., health problems, physical disabilities, etc., but unless individuals feel jobs are available, they will be led to despair and sink into debilitating behaviors. We must do more than merely talk about the need for jobs at all levels; those in government leadership and owners of companies must work diligently to create them.
It is not sufficient to hang out a sign stating that a company is hiring; the pay for the work provided must be just. I suppose the argument about what should be the amount of the minimum wage will go on for years to come, but we must become more realistic about it. A worker cannot be subject to all the ways that costs go up monthly and yearly and then be told that his/her own pay will not be increased year after year. How are these workers expected to pay their bills today and in the future if their pay remains at $8.25, the same it has been for a number of years? Thankfully some real progress of raising the minimum wage has happened recently.
A final consideration in this discussion is the fact that educational opportunity and experience is absolutely necessary in order for workers to be prepared for today’s jobs. The quality of our educational system is at the heart of individuals becoming prepared for a variety of possible employment positions. Teachers must be trained well in order to create classroom situations for learning, but parents also must encourage their children and supervise their attendance at school. Truancy must be addressed, but to do so requires that sufficient people are hired to make it work. If children, especially adolescents, are not properly supervised, they will not get a good education and will often get into troublesome behaviors. While not everyone will be able to graduate from a four-year college, I fully endorse the programs of our community colleges and of our schools that teach trades and all kinds of practical skills that we need in order for our lives to benefit and flourish. With proper attention and marketing, we can do better.
TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings challenge us to think about the motivations for our actions, reminding us that God calls us to lead lives of integrity. The Book of Deuteronomy calls the Israelites to keep the commandments of the Lord so that all the nations will consider Israel’s laws as a true gift: “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.”
Wisdom in the ancient world embraced practical insight and knowledge about how to act and how to make the right decisions in difficult situations. Think of the great King Solomon, who was celebrated as the wisest of kings. The commandments are God’s ultimate gift of wisdom, inspiring his people to decide according to God’s will.
Today we begin reading from the Letter of James, which we will read for the next four weeks. This letter is a true wisdom writing in that it offers practical advice on how to lead one’s life. The source of this wisdom is divine: “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Living a good life, James insists, must also include caring for “widows and orphans”—truly the most vulnerable members of society.
In the Gospel, Jesus takes on the scribes and Pharisees, who have forgotten that the laws and commandments are a source of wisdom and insight for leading their lives. They have come to see them legalistically as ends in themselves rather than as guidance for actions. The Pharisees were concentrating on externals, but unless one’s interior dispositions are guided by God’s Word and laws, one’s actions will tend toward selfish and evil interests. Wise decisions and good actions come from hearts that have steeped themselves in God’s wisdom.
The reading from St. James reminds us to care for those who have little status in the world. In the early years of the Church, widows and orphans had no rights, so St. James wrote, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council continued that teaching as they urged union with the poor and suffering. At the beginning of Gaudium et spes, the Fathers state: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.” (#1).
“The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” As these words are sung in the refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm, the assembly sings of a people who honor God with acts not words. These people are blameless because they live justly. In the World Day of Peace message in 1972, Pope Paul VI quoted from Isaiah as he urged people to work for justice to bring peace. He states, “The invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practice justice: ‘Justice will bring about Peace.’ We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: ‘If you want Peace, work for Justice.’”
Quoting Isaiah, Jesus decries a people who have unclean hearts, who praise God with their lips but do not seek justice. In 1971, the World Synod of Bishops wrote in Justitia in mundo that working for justice was part of the Church’s mission of liberating the oppressed. The document states, “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” (#6).
Jesus called for people to look inside themselves to seek their motives. So, too, the bishops state in Justitia in mundo the Church needs to examine herself. “The Church recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself” (#40).
For Your Reflection: How do the Commandments help you to live a just life? What does it mean to be doers of the Word? How does what is inside a person defile or bring life to others?
LABOR DAY SCHEDULE
Labor Day, Monday, September 3, 2018, is a national holiday and one that many people consider a transition from summer into fall. It’s a time for people to gather and to enjoy each other’s company in a variety of settings. For many young people it is the beginning of a new school year. It is also a holiday here at St. Peter’s, and therefore we will have only one Mass on Monday, September 3. The church will open at 9:00 A.M., the Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 A.M., and then the church will close at 11:00. Please note this change of schedule as you make your holiday plans. We hope you will include Mass in those plans if at all possible.
THE CURRENT SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
All of us have been bombarded in the various forms of the media these past days with the accounts of the report issued by the Attorney General in the State of Pennsylvania after a two-year study of six dioceses in that state concerning the response of bishops to allegations of sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the church. This report covered the last 70 years, and it was reported that over those years at least 1,000 children were abused by 300 priests. The report itself covers almost 900 pages; therefore at best what has been reported is a relatively short summary of the findings. I hope soon to write my own thoughts about this situation, but today I want to introduce you to the letter Cardinal Cupich wrote on August 17, 2018, responding to the report.
“Anger, shock, grief, shame. What other words can we summon to describe the experience of learning about the devastating revelations of sexual abuse—and the failures of bishops to safeguard the children entrusted to their care—published in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Tuesday? This catalogue of horrors comes on the heels of news accounts of deeply disturbing sexual-abuse and harassment allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who recently resigned from the College of Cardinals. And yet whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve. As the Holy See put it in its August 16 statement on the grand jury report: ‘The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.’”
I would highly encourage everyone to read Cardinal Cupich’s entire letter if at all possible. I would hope you would take the time to do so and not to rely totally on the snippets and pieces of the letter that have been quoted in the news media. You can find the letter on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago (www.archchicago.org) or on the St. Peter’s website at www.stpetersloop.org. By reading the entire letter you will also find out all the ways the archdiocese has been responding to allegations of sexual abuse, especially since the Bishops’ Charter was adopted in 2002. I truly believe the Archdiocese of Chicago has been in the forefront in this regard from that time.
LOST CHILD PILGRIMAGE
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii invites you to their Lost Child Pilgrimage which will take place at the Shrine on Saturday, October 13, 2018, from 8:30 AM until 2:00 PM. The cost is $25.00 per person and includes lunch. If you come, you will explore together with others the sacred journey of Loss, Healing and Hope. This pilgrimage to Mary’s House is a pilgrimage of solidarity, for Mary, too, has lost a child but nevertheless continues to hope in the promise of God.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii stands with and for those who carry the burden of the Lost Child. It opens its doors and hearts to you, standing with you, for Mary’s Bethlehem joy was Mary’s Calvary vigil of sorrow as well. They have faith in the power of prayer to heal the soul and faith in the comfort and support of a community coming together in solidarity.
The featured speaker is Julie Raino, M.Div., M.Ed, GC-C, who is the Director of Meridian Counseling for Grief and Loss. Julie has enjoyed over 30 years’ experience as an educator and grief counselor, specializing in pediatric grief and serving schools, hospitals, hospices, funeral homes and parishes through retreats, workshops, small groups and individual counseling.
For information and/or registration, please call 312-421-3757
A CHUCKLE FOR LABOR DAY
Patrons at the zoo were astonished to see an old man jump over the bars on the lion’s cage. Seemingly oblivious to the danger, he walked among the fierce creatures holding the latest bestselling book in his hands, intently perusing its contents. The spectators were beside themselves.
“What in the world is he doing?” shouted one.
“Is he crazy? He’s going to get killed!” yelled another.
“Don’t worry about him,” replied the man’s son. “That’s just my dad. He likes to read between the lions.”