Sunday, September 15, 2013
Almost two thousand years ago, on the night before He died, Jesus of Nazareth celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. They gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem for a ritual meal that commemorated an event that at that point was over 1,300 years old – the night the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Hebrews and their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The ritual was set and done exactly the same way in every village and town throughout Judah. That is until Jesus departed from the well-known ritual, took bread into His hands, said a blessing over it, broke it and gave it do his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).
We can only wonder what the disciples thought as they received this bread He declared to be His body. He then took the cup of wine, the last of four consumed during the Passover meal, and told them that it was the “blood of the new covenant” (Luke 22:20). Jesus declared a new covenant between God and humanity. It is the New Covenant that we celebrate each time we come to Mass.
What is our response to the command of Jesus to take and eat and, take and drink? Our very eternal existence relies on our answer, for without Christ we are as good as dead. The Angel of Death still treads the earth bringing fear to those who do not believe in eternal life.
Our society considers itself to be very sophisticated and scientific. Most take literally what they learned in high school biology, that we come into existence in our mother’s womb, and when we breathe our last breath, our body immediately starts to decay – and we cease to exist. But we know that’s there more to it; as the Pslamist tells us (Psalm 139), we were known to God before we were knit in our mother’s wombs, and because of our belief in Christ, we do not cease to exist when our body fails! Our faith in God teaches us that there is life after death.
There may be other things that seem more important than going to Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, and indeed they would be if this life were all there is. But for the chance of eternal life, the reality for the true Christian is that getting to Mass, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, is well worth every effort that it takes. In fact, it is among the most important things we do in our earthly life.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Pope Francis called for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria, the Middle East, and the world to be held on September 7, 2013, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace. The Holy Father reminded us that "peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected" and that "all men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace." If this is the first time you are hearing the Holy Father’s message, you are encouraged to pick a day this week to fast and pray.
The Bishops of the United States send this message to all the faithful: “We are anguished by the terrible suffering of the Syrian people and again affirm the need for dialogue and negotiation to resolve this conflict that has wrought so much devastation. The use of chemical weapons is particularly abhorrent and we urgently pray for the victims of such atrocities and for their loved ones. And we applaud the work done by those bringing humanitarian aid to people affected by this crisis and pray for their efforts to ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters.
“As our nation's leaders contemplate military action, it is particularly appropriate and urgent that we in the United States embrace the Holy Father's call to pray and fast for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria and to violent conflicts everywhere. Pope Francis has exhorted "the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace, …a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people."
“Last Friday, our Conference of Bishops reaffirmed an earlier message of the Holy Father "that the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict." We urged "the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial and neutral humanitarian assistance, and encourage building an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities."
The Pope and our Bishops urge us to witness to the hope we have in peace through prayer and fasting. We are also encouraged to contact our representatives in Congress and the U.S. Senate and let them know that the only intervention we support with Syria is diplomatic.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Labor Day is not the end of Summer – that comes three weeks from now. Labor Day is not a day off from our labors. Labor Day celebrates the American worker and is an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected. Earlier this year, Pope Francis pointed out, "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, [and] to contribute to the growth of one's own nation." Unfortunately, millions of workers today are denied this honor and respect as a result of unemployment, underemployment, unjust wages, wage theft, abuse, and exploitation.
Even with the economy producing at, or above, pre-crash levels, it has not improved the standard of living for many people, especially for the poor and the working poor, of which there are more with every passing month. More than four million people have been jobless for over six months, and that does not include the millions more who have simply lost hope. The reality is that a person aged 55, or above, who lost their full-time job during the crash may never work full time again. For every available job, there are often five people actively vying for it. The lack of jobs pushes wages down as does the fact that most of the jobs created since the crash have been in the low-paying service sector.
In the wealthiest country in the world more than 46 million people live in poverty, including 16 million children. The economy is not creating an adequate number of jobs that allow workers to provide for themselves and their families.
Jobs, wages, and poverty are interrelated. The only way to reduce the widening gap between the affluent and the poorest people in our nation is by creating quality jobs that provide a just compensation that enables workers to live in the dignity appropriate for themselves and their families.
At the end of Mass we are commanded "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord." We leave with a sense of mission to show one another honor by what we do and say. On this Labor Day our mission takes us to the millions of people who continue to suffer the effects of the current economy. Labor Day is an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected and to work at changing unjust economic systems.
This 3-minute is based on material from the US Catholic Bishop’s 2013 Labor Day Statement. To read the complete statement go to http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/labor-day-statement-2013.cfm.