September 25, 2015

Sept. 25

September 25, 2015:  Friday, 25th week, Ordinary Time

Pope Francis
To Congress:  Your responsibility is to enable this country to grow, to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in pursuit of the common good.  A society endures when it satisfies common needs by stimulating its members' growth, especially of the most vulnerable. Legislative activity is based on care for the people.  Those who elected you invited you to this.  Moses symbolizes the need of peoples to keep their unity through just legislation, and Moses leads us to God and the transcendent dignity of the human being.  You're asked to protect, by means of law, God's image and likeness on every human face.
All who strive to do an honest day’s work and build a better life for their families sustain the life of society, generate solidarity, and create organizations that  help those most in need.  Elderly persons are a storehouse of wisdom and seek to share their stories and insights; many are retired but still active.  Many young people work to realize their aspirations, aren't led astray by facile proposals, and face difficult situations, often because of adults' immaturity.
We remember great Americans who, history and the human weakness notwithstanding, helped build a better future and shape fundamental values which will endure.  A people with this spirit can live through crises, tensions, and conflicts and move forward with dignity.   In honoring them we're inspired to draw on our deepest cultural reserves.
I want to mention four:  Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  Lincoln labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, have a new birth of freedom.”  Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation.
The disturbing world situation worries us, including violence committed in the name of God and religion.  No religion is immune from delusion or extremism; be attentive to fundamentalism, religious or otherwise.  Delicate balance is needed to combat violence in the name of a religion, ideology, or system, while also safeguarding religious, intellectual, and individual freedom.  We must also guard against reductionism that sees only good or evil, righteous or sinners.  We must confront polarization that would divide into these two camps.  While trying to be freed of the enemy without, we can feed the enemy within, taking tyrants' place by imitating their hatred.  But our response must be hope, healing, peace, and justice.  Summon the courage and intelligence to resolve today’s crises.  The effects of unjust structures and actions are apparent.  Restore hope, right wrongs, maintain commitments, and so promote well-being.  Advance together, in fraternity and solidarity, cooperating for the common good.
Today's challenges call for cooperation, pooling of resources, and mutual support, respecting our differences and convictions.  Religious denominations have helped build and strengthen society.  The voice of faith must continue to be heard; it's a voice of fraternity and love, trying to bring out the best in persons and societies.  Cooperation is necessary to eliminate slavery, born of injustices overcome only through new policies and new forms of consensus.  Democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people.  Political activity must serve and promote the good of the person and be based on respect for human dignity.  If politics must be at the service of the human person, it can't be slave to the economy.  Politics expresses  need to live as one, to build the greatest common good:  a community that sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, interests, and life.
I think of the march Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery as part of the campaign to fulfill his dream of rights for African Americans, a dream that still inspires us.  I'm happy America is still, for many, a land of dreams, dreams that lead to action, participation, and commitment, awakening  what's deepest and truest.  Millions came here to build a future in freedom.  We don't fear foreigners; most of us are immigrants or their descendants.  The rights of those here long before us were not always respected; I affirm my esteem and appreciation for those people.  Those first contacts were often violent, but it's hard to judge the past by today's criteria.  But when the stranger appeals to us, we must not repeat past sins but live nobly and justly, not turning our back on our “neighbors.”  To build a nation, we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility and adopting one of subsidiarity.  The world refugee crisis presents us with great challenges and hard decisions.  On this continent, many travel north in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones, as we want for our own children.  View them as persons, see their faces, listen to them, and respond as best as you can:  humane, just, and fraternal.  Don't discard what's troublesome; “do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.”  The Golden Rule points us in a clear direction:  treat others with passion and compassion, seek for them the same possibilities we seek, help them to grow. To have security, life, and opportunities, give them.  The Golden Rule also reminds us to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.  This conviction has led me to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.  Every life is sacred, every person endowed with an dignity.  Just punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
Servant of God Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker.  The Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints inspired her social activism and passion for justice and the oppressed.  Much has been done to raise people out of poverty, but much more remains.  Keep in mind all trapped in a cycle of poverty; they need to be given hope.  Fight poverty and hunger on many fronts, especially in its causes.  Part of this effort is the creation and distribution of wealth.  The right use of natural resources, proper application of technology, and harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential to a modern, inclusive, sustainable economy.   The common good includes the earth; we need a conversation including everyone, since our environmental challenge, and its human roots, affect us all.  In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous, responsible effort to redirect our steps and avert environmental deterioration our activity causes.  We can make a difference, and you have an important role.  Implement a “culture of care” and “integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and protecting nature.”  “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to develop and limit our power, and to put technology at the service of healthy, human, social, integral progress.  America’s academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution.
Monk Thomas Merton is a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many.  He wrote, “Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my violence and selfishness, in the image of the world.  That world was full of men like me, loving God but hating him, born to love him but living in fear....”  He was a man of prayer who opened new horizons for people and the Church.  He was a man of dialogue and promoter of peace.  I want to build bridges and to help all to do so.  When countries which have been at odds resume dialogue, new opportunities open.  This requires courage and daring.  A good leader has the interests of all in mind and seizes the moment in openness and pragmatism.  Being at the service of dialogue and peace means being determined to minimize and end armed conflicts.  Ask, Why are weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict suffering?  For money, money drenched in blood.  Confront the problem and stop the arms trade.
Four representatives of the American people, four dreams:  Lincoln, liberty; King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Day, justice and human rights; Merton, dialogue and openness to God.  
How essential the family has been to the building of this country!  How worthy it remains of our support!  But the family is threatened.  Relationships are called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and family.  Family life is so important, rich, and beautiful!  Young family members are the most vulnerable.  Some seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in violence, abuse, and despair.  Their problems are ours; face them together, talk about them, and seek solutions.  We live in a culture that pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities, but the same culture presents others with so many options that they're dissuaded from starting a family.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty like Lincoln did, fosters a culture enabling people to “dream” of full rights for all like King sought, when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Day did, and is the fruit of faith that becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Merton.  May this spirit continue to grow, so that many can inherit and dwell in a land that has inspired so many people.
With the homeless:  I love St. Joseph; he's been important all my life, a support and inspiration.  He faced difficult situations.  One was when Mary was about to give birth to Jesus and there was no room.  The Son of God came into this world homeless.  Joseph must have thought, like you might, Why are we homeless?  Why do our brothers and sisters have no place to live?  Faith gave Joseph the power to find light when things seemed dark and to press on when things seemed to hold him back.  In the face of unjust and painful situations, faith brings us light that scatters darkness and opens us to God's presence in every person and situation.  God is in you.  There's no justification for lack of housing.  There are many unjust situations, but we know God is suffering with us and won't abandon us.
Jesus wanted everyone to experience his companionship, help, and love.  He identified with the suffering, with the weeping, with victims of injustice:  “I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you welcomed me....”  Faith makes us know God is at our side, and he spurs us to charity.  God invites us to love, compassion, and service.  Jesus knocks on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters.  One of the most effective ways we can help is prayer; it unites us, opens our hearts, reminds us of the truth that God is “Father,” “Dad.”   We learn to see each other as brothers and sisters.  In prayer, there's no rich and poor, no 1st or 2nd class; there are sisters and brothers.  Pray for and with one another, so we can help each other experience the joy of knowing Jesus is in our midst:  Our Father, who art in heaven…  The Lord bless you and keep you....
NY Vespers with priests and religious:  “There is a cause for rejoicing, though you may have to suffer trials.”  Our vocation is to be lived in joy.  This cathedral is a symbol of the work of generations of American priests, religious, and lay faithful who helped build up the US Church.  In the field of education alone, many priests and religious here played a central role; I think of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann....
We pray our vocations will build God’s Kingdom here.  You suffered bearing the shame of your brothers who scandalized the Church in her most vulnerable members…  I accompany you and thank God for your faithful service.
The joy of people who love God attracts others; radiate satisfaction in your vocation.  Joy springs from a grateful heart.  Rejoice in the graces you've received.  Remember when you were first called, the road you traveled, your encounter with Jesus Christ along the way and the amazement it awakens.  Seek the grace of remembrance to grow in gratitude.  Are we good at counting our blessings?
Gratitude impels us to serve the Lord in a life of self-sacrifice, working for him and others, responding to his love.  But "spiritual worldliness" can dampen our self-sacrifice, weaken our commitment, and diminish the wonder of our encounter with Christ.  We can get caught up measuring our work by efficiency and outward success.  We are accountable in those areas, but the worth of our apostolate is the value it has to God.  To see things from God’s perspective calls for constant conversion and great humility.  The cross shows a different way to measure success.  We plant seeds; God sees to the fruit.  If we don't see fruit, remember we're followers of Jesus, and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure.
Another danger is becoming jealous of our free time and thinking worldly comforts will help us serve better; it can blunt the power of God’s call to conversion and encounter, diminish our spirit of sacrifice, renunciation and hard work.  It also alienates people who suffer poverty forced to make greater sacrifices than we.  Rest, leisure, and self-enrichment are needed, but we need to learn to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve.  Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s poor, will teach us a Christian and generous way to rest.
Gratitude and work are two pillars of the spiritual life I wanted to share with you.   I especially want to express my esteem and gratitude to US religious women, women of strength, courageous front-line fighters proclaiming the  Gospel.  A big thank you.  I love you very much.  Be at peace and respond to challenges as Christ did:  thank the Father, take up your cross, and look ahead! 

To UN:  Most of what you do here doesn't make the news, but your efforts make possible UN's diplomatic, cultural, economic, and political initiatives, so important for meeting people's hopes and expectations.  Thank you!  Your improves the UN and is significant to you personally, for our work expresses our dignity and the kind of persons we are.  You're from all over the world; you're a microcosm of the peoples the UN represents and serves. You're concerned about your children’s welfare and education.  You worry about the planet's future and what kind of world we'll leave for future generations.  Care for one another.  Be close to one another, respect one another, and so embody this Organization’s ideal of a united human family, living in harmony, working for and in peace, for and in a spirit of justice.  I pray for you and your families.  Please pray for me, and if you're not a believer, please wish me well.
Listen

Read

  • Hg 2:1-9  Lord via Haggai:  Tell governor  Zerubbabel, high priest Joshua, and remnant of people:  Who saw this house in its former glory?  Doesn't it seem like nothing to you now?  Take courage, and work!  I am with you.  Fear not!  I'll shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land, and the nations, and fill this house with glory.  Mine is the silver and gold.  This house's glory will be greater than before.  I'll give you peace!
  • Ps 43:1-4  "Hope in God; I will praise him, my savior and my God."  Do me justice, and rescue me.  Why do you keep me so far away?  Send your light and fidelity to lead me on.  Bring me to your dwelling place, and I'll go to your altar and give you thanks....
  • Lk 9:18-22  Jesus to disciples:  “Who do the crowds say I am?” / “John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet.’” / “Who do you say that I am?” / Peter:  “God's Christ.”  He told them to keep it to themselves. “The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised.”

Look

  • 'Eyeball' pin:  Does this house seem like nothing in your eyes now? (1st reading)
  • 'Working' tie:  Take courage, you people of the land, and work! (1st reading)
  • Silver- and gold-colored accoutrements:  Mine is the silver, mine the gold (1st reading)
  • 'Accordion' pin:  "I'll give you thanks on the harp" (psalm) (Re harp/accordion connection, hear this Disney duo and see this Far Side comic :-)
  • '?' tie pin:  "Who do they/you say I am?" (gospel)
  • Crucifix pin:  "The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised" (gospel)
  • Green in shirt and suspenders:  Ordinary Time season
Reflect
    • Passionist:  The Lord through Haggai exhorts the people to continue rebuilding the Temple, promising peace and that the new Temple's glory will exceed that of the one Solomon built. / In light of Peter’s profession of faith, we can ask, “Who is Jesus for us?  Can we find God’s promise of peace in Christ?  Can we find peace in following Jesus?”....
      St. Finbar
    • DailyScripture.net:  Who is Jesus for you?  So what?  Many recognized Jesus as a man of God, even a prophet.  Peter professed he was the "Christ [Messiah, Anointed] of God"; only God could reveal that Jesus was more than a teacher, prophet, and miracle worker.  Cyril of Alexandria re why Jesus told them to be quiet:  "There were things yet unfulfilled which must also be included in their preaching:  the cross, the passion, the death in the flesh, the resurrection....  He abolished death and destruction, robbed hell, overthrew the tyranny of the enemy, took away sin, opened heaven to us, and united earth to heaven.  These proved him to be God.  So he commanded them to guard the mystery by silence until the whole plan should arrive at a suitable conclusion."  (Commentary on Luke, Homily 49, paraphrased)  The disciples were startled when Jesus told them he had to suffer and die; how different God's ways from ours....  To share in the Lord's victory, we must take up our cross and follow him.  When my will crosses God's, his must be done....