Religion & Politics Must Mix

A friend asked me why, as a priest, I continue to comment on politics.  Here’s why: 

My politics aren’t limited to any one realm but they are informed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was very critical of all peoples in power and in institutions that run without mercy just as God is mercy. Jesus would condemn terrorists, communists and greedy capitalists equally as each in their own way (terrorists most explicitly) contribute to the suffering, and yes, death of many peoples far beyond “self-defense.” It’s a social sin that governments build up armaments at the expense of fare trade food, health and education for their people. I certainly think Kim of North Korea is filled with evil and so is his nuclear tests, and he should be handled with harsh criticism and sanctions, but hasn’t our country set the example of “might makes right” long ago? Not that we shouldn’t be able to defend ourselves and innocent people–and, yes, hindsight regarding our pacifism to Hitler early on was a terrible mistake, but, all the same, if we spent an equal amount on diplomacy and support of our poorest citizens, and assist, when we can, other countries to do the same, there would be far less to criticize.  Peoples who have basic needs met are far less likely to revolt, turn to violent revolutions, racisms and the like. In the 1986 the United States Bishops Conference issued a researched paper calling for Justice in the Economy (See Below) Wall Street and Conservative Catholic Economists crucified the contents saying that religious leaders need to keep out of non-spiritual matters. However, Jesus received the same hostility when he began his public ministry (See Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4) and his criticism of established norms of state and church put him on the Cross. (He called Herod “a fox.” And “render to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s “is not about separation of Church and State but pointing out the limits of the state because, for believers, all belongs to God. All prominent Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox scholars have affirmed this for almost a century, but people still hold on to old world views and old ways of interpreting the scriptures. The point of the Cross was to put a mirror onto society and its violent, selfish aspects to forgive and transform them. Not simply forgive and let business continue as usual. Nothing should stay the way it is because it worked in the past. People forget the Bible is as much future-oriented as it informs us of the past. At any rate, that is just some of the basis for my informed, prayerful sense that religion and politics must be kept in dialogue and that religion considering Jesus is asked to take a critical stance and look at the consequences for as many people as possible, not just a few, in reviewing current trends and legislations. 

Meanwhile chick this out http://www.usccb.org/upload/economic_justice_for_all.pdf 

God bless!

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Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped!”  I’ve always loved those lines from Jeremiah, finding comfort in them whenever I feel let down, overwhelmed, or just plain sad about my life or what’s going on in the world.  What good has all my preaching accomplished–who remembers homilies, anyway?  To what effect all these Eucharists?  People still hate one another, misinterpret Scripture to bully people, justify their prejudices, and, particularly this week, ask why God does not intervene in Nature’s devastations in Texas and elsewhere.

As we pray Psalm 63 this morning, aren’t we thirsting for God to show up?  Wouldn’t it have been inspiring had God whisked Hurricane Harvey out to sea in the same way Jesus calmed the storms 2,000 years ago?  Of course, the Holy Spirit will inspire people to respond to Hurricane Relief.  In solidarity with those who lost homes and livelihood, Catholic Charities and other noble organizations will solicit contributions from us all.  Indeed, with eyes of faith, we expect the milk of human kindness to be in strong evidence once again.  God is and will always be part of these grace-filled endeavors.   Still, we may be haunted by the age-old mystery as to why God allows tragedies to play themselves out as readily as God enhances goodness to breed goodness, grace to build upon grace.

What hope do we have other than to trust in this mystery?  Jeremiah, despite his desire to run from God and live without faith, without prayer and rituals, acknowledged that, ultimately, God’s Spirit became “like fire burning” in his heart, his faith in God somehow “imprisoned” in his bones.  Jeremiah’s faith in God conquered his disillusionment and fear.  How?

Jesus tells us by “picking up our cross,” he strengthens us to live within faith’s paradox, to embrace mystery, to trust in eternal truths.  Because our past informs our present, we know that we have, we can and we will overcome hatred, prejudice and even natural disasters because of faith’s common denominator: we are all children of God on a journey unto eternity.  Of course, like Saint Peter on that day, we would have preferred an invincible Messiah who would establish a suffering-free universe. Yet, from the beginning death was part of God’s plan—our human bodies as we experience them were destined to be but a prologue to a transcendent way of life with body and soul beyond the grave (yes) but not without some dying and rising from day to day to day. Along with hundreds of events from the past, Houston invites us, once again, to review our attachments to material things and to scrutinize the degree to which we honor our relationships with God and others and live each day as if it were our last.

What are our expectations of life?  Why are our capacities for mystery so limited?  In part, because we’ve kept our faith rooted in what we learned as children—neglecting to nurture it into adulthood.  We continue to change with the times regarding science, medicine and technology, even morality and ethics, but not in fundamental aspects of faith. Meanwhile, change has occurred in the ways the Church interprets the Bible and appropriates the Sacraments.

Considering the floods in Houston and environs –and with more on the horizon—who among us has not thought of Genesis and Noah and the Flood?  Does God still punish us with natural disasters?  What other insights from childhood continue to echo in our adult brains?  But here’s an example of how biblical scholarship has changed:  We now understand that the ancient biblical writers used a tragic event – a flood – into a lesson on morality and faith, revealing, at the same time, a very narrow, limited understanding of God.  Believing as the ancients did that to be all-powerful was to be responsible for all activity on earth, they understood everything that happens as either a reward or punishment from God. Thus, the story of a flood-to-end-all-floods was presented as God’s weariness with the sins of humanity. Perhaps fed-up themselves with the evil within human nature, the biblical writers projected their disgust as coming from God as they tried to make sense of a catastrophic phenomenon. As centuries passed, however, their own experiences of God, coupled with burgeoning revelations from JOB and the prophets and ongoing prayer empowered the faithful to conclude that God’s all-powerful dimension comprises a greater mystery: God lets Nature evolve and interact with itself (ant that includes humanity) within its own limitations, just as God permits humanity’s free will to make of ourselves and our world what we will—guiding and supporting always, but interfering only rarely. Therefore, today, we acknowledge our childhood understanding of Noah and the Ark is found wanting. And yet, the story remains part of the inerrant dynamic of the Bible–not for what it says about God, but for what it reveals about the power of faith (Noah and his family) and a deeper truth that God supports the faithful through the tragedies of life, promising hope and redemption symbolized by a rainbow. Today, considering Hurricane Harvey, that rainbow symbolizes a whole lot more.  The value of our homes and personal luxuries pale in the presence of a helping hand—no matter the color of the skin, the ethnicity it represents, its age or size, its nation of origin. The Good News is that God works primarily (although NOT exclusively) through US.  We are not alone unless we choose to be.  We never need be afraid.

Today we acknowledge that the Scriptures are both past, present and FUTURE ORIENTED. They inform us about the past as they illuminate HERE and NOW and beckon us onto the FUTURE.  So, too, our current events. It’s clear that the earth has entered a warming phase with erratic temperatures and winds, caused, in part, through ice melts from the poles.  No one refutes that any longer.  What still is debated, however, is the extent the human footprint accelerates this phenomenon. But who could argue this: From the beginning, the Holy Spirit has nurtured Wisdom in human hearts and that centuries ago, the Spirit moved humanity to acknowledge a universal, common sense adage “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” As Catholics and others throughout the nation this weekend (and in the months to come) contribute and volunteer to Catholic Charities’ appeals to rebuild homes and refortify Texas Gulf cities and surroundings, we must prayerfully consider the bigger picture, engage in more preventative endeavors, more precautions, more safety measures, more environmentally sound uses of power and fuel, however costly—locally and nationally–these may be. The future of Texas as well as our children’s future and the entire earth’s future depend upon it. Whatever our political sensibilities we must defer to the Cross of Jesus Christ that insists we, too, sacrifice for a greater good. And then, because of God’s design, goodness will increase.

Today’s Eucharist is a preventative measure, too. Assuring Christ’s presence within us, around us, our Eucharist cultivates true faith–adult faith, inviting us to attend to our relationships with God and others with patience, awe and reverence and, yes, even patience with God until, ultimately, all shall be on earth as it is in heaven.

Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

  1. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    O God, you are my God whom I seek;
    for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
    like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
    to see your power and your glory,
    for your kindness is a greater good than life;
    my lips shall glorify you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus will I bless you while I live;
    lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
    As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
    and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    You are my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
    My soul clings fast to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2 Rom 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Alleluia cf. Eph 1:17-18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
    enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
    that we may know what is the hope
    that belongs to our call.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

 

On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

There appears to be significant self-loathing in the emerging portrait of the murderer at the gay-oriented Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.  The best thing religious leaders can do for their constit…

Source: On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

There appears to be significant self-loathing in the emerging portrait of the murderer at the gay-oriented Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.  The best thing religious leaders can do for their constituents is to promote love of self– the self-acceptance and full dignity of being a unique human being, that includes our ethnicity, physical traits and sexual orientation. Love, compassion and empathy toward others begins here.  There is no other healthy foundation for faith.

I invite people of ALL Faiths to persevere in spreading this message that we are, indeed, children of a magnanimous, benevolent God whose love is unconditional, who delights in diversity and the many colors and shapes and sizes of every living creature on the face of the earth. Condolences to all the bereaved. Together may we cultivate Hope together.

My LukeLive! ministry includes a central segment on the importance of love and self-acceptance.  This meditation comes right after I’ve invited listeners to reflect on the day of their birth.  You can listen to it here:

I invite you to support my ministry by downloading this and other segments, or the entire album of Luke Live! Highlights at

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

For more in this conversation on the tragedy at the Pulse club, read this blog post from Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, FL.  This is the BEST statement from a Catholic Bishop regarding the murder of gay men, lesbians and trans-gender:  Please read: http://bishopsblog.dosp.org/?p=6644

Here’s an appropriate image for this week:

Pala Baglione, Borghese Deposition or The Entombment – Bing images

Stop Anti-Semitism & Scapegoating NOW!

Are you as saddened and outraged about what has happened at Oberlin College in Ohio  as I am?
An adjunct professor spews anti-Semitic, racial hatred in class and on Facebook. The College President allows it because of “freedom of speech” but  in his speech addressing the issue, he does not specify all that is illogical in the anti-Semite professor’s diatribes. Here’s my response and warning to myself and to all of us tempted to scapegoat, blame or ostracize any group AND our responsibility to counter lies and the dark myths of prejudice:
1. We must never speak about any ethnic, national or religious group as responsible for any one thing in particular. Every group is made up of individuals, sub-groups and marginal groups who evidence tremendous diversity .  When anyone speaks of “The Catholics,” “The Protestants,” “the Jews,” The Nigerians,”  “the Americans”  ” the Italians,” we must immediately STOP RIGHT THERE and ask, “Who?”  “Which ones?”  “What segment?” As soon as any one generalizes about any peoples, nation or religion the statement is a LIE!
2.  Even when a sub-group, or smaller group of individuals or individuals themselves are identified as guilty of an immoral incident or event, questions must be addressed and allegations must be verified and substantiated.  Again, “Who?”  “What Contexts?”  “What evidence?”  “What verifications?”  If No ONE can be substantiated as  responsible, then certainly NO ENTIRE GROUP can be responsible. Furthermore, even when ONE individual or Sub-Group is verifiably responsible, it is extremely unlikely that the entire sub-group is responsible and certainly not the entire, larger group.  THIS I S LOGIC.  This is Justice.  This is TRUTH.
3.  Freedom of Speech does allow for anyone to say anything including spewing of  lies, illogic, hatred, prejudice, etc. but a free society has an OBLIGATION to counter that speech with TRUTH.  Furthermore, we have a moral imperative to substantiate the truth with proofs and verifiable historic and scientific evidence.  Therefore, I repeat: Allowing one person’s freedom of speech to include lies, hate, scapegoating requires others to RESPONSIBILITY and to TRUTH.   In the case cited, the President must conduct a public forum revealing the lies of the given professor’s statements. To allow proliferation of a lie is to renege on responsibility and common human decency and allow the lies to prosper, mislead and corrupt people’s thinking.
4.  Even Free Speech has its limits. The public square no longer tolerates racial slurs in the public forums.  Certain expletives are band in the media.  So, too, must negative generalizations  about any group.  Any allegation must in justice identify individuals and sub-groups so we promote truth and balance in the media.  In truth, even positive statements and praise need to have specific clarifications.  For example, even in this hostile political climate in the USA, we must not speak of “The Italian American Vote,”  “the Black or African American vote,”  “The Evangelical Vote,” “The Jewish American Vote,”  those very statements are dishonest. We may speak of “a large portion of African Americans in Alabama in the Republican party are voting this way,”  or  “More Italian Americans in New Jersey are tending to vote in the Democratic primary this year.”  WE must stop generalizations in all spheres or we are planting the seeds of ethnic scapegoating and ethnic hatreds.  Anti-Semitism is often the symptom of a terrible illogic that festers in human minds and in human societies.  All peoples who seek truth and justice must counter this illogic on all levels including temptations that exist in our own hearts.
If you don’t know about this incident, you can read about it here:
PLEASE COMMENT!  Please don’t let Anti-Semitism or any prejudice, any lies, hate or scapegoating go unaddressed.  ALSO:  in the coming weeks I am going to begin to offer commentary in a series of blogs on a most excellent book: Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book NOT IN GOD’S NAME.  Watch for it!

Gut Response to Republican Debate Sept. 16, 2015

I watched ALL of the Republican debate on CNN.  Here’s my gut response:  Jeb Bush comes across as the most humane (and yes, he had more energy); John Kasich quite sensible.  The rest?  Ugh.  I take particular umbrage with Marco Rubio.  Could anyone be more myopic? His tirade against environmental concern is so extreme.  Is there no middle ground with him?  If some jobs are lost, wouldn’t more jobs be gained in the new technologies?  Has he no concern for clean air and water?  He likes to drink water.  God help him.

Trump was a bit more cordial than the last time.  He is so very entertaining.
Carly Fiorina comes across as a solid hawk, perhaps even more than most of the men.  Do you think she overdid it to show that she is a strong person?  I don’t know.  But I applaud her statements not to fund Planned Parenthood (NO reason tax dollars should support abortions not only because it’s a great moral issue but also because the tax paying public is so divided on the issue.  PP will have no problem getting funds from the private sector anyway) and I appreciated her passion against legalized marijuana as a gateway drug. For all that, I think all of the candidates want to take funding away from  PP.
Sadly Jeb didn’t get to summarize his tax plan, although Carson and others did.  Having read Jeb’s in the NYTIMES, it definitely seems reasonable.  Carson’s tithing (10 %) across the board for everyone is intriguing, but he’s not a viable candidate and the tithing thing doesn’t seem practical on some levels, although it would totally simplify everything. Plus it’s biblical!
I wish these debates would focus more on the issues than the usual political rants and idealistic speeches.  The moderators don’t ask penetrating questions!  E.g. on the hot issue of the Iran deal:  during the considerable number of sanction years, Iran has built up considerable uranium deposits and, without any Western communication , sources say it would be ready to build a bomb in the next three months.  So what good did the strict sanctions do?  They only isolated a sick and diseased country and allowed its leaders to do what they wanted while the common people suffered there.  Why would no one state the obvious here? Sadly, central points like these are never brought up in most debates.  At least some of the potential candidates did state the obvious:  with or without this agreement the USA can bomb Iran any time it likes.  And so can Israel for that matter. So what is the big deal here?  In the past, some diplomacy with an enemy has had greater potential than none at all even when war became inevitable. And as Kasich repeatedly stated, we gain more support from Europe when we at least try the diplomatic way first.
Have a wonderful day.  You deserve it!

A Modest Proposal: Tips for McDonald’s Workers

The article on Fast-Food Workers in the September 15 issue of the NEW YORKER is worth our time:  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/15/dignity-4

I am particularly concerned about this statement:  “A recent study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that fifty-two per cent of fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance.” (i.e., Food Stamps and Medicaid).”  And this one: Most of their employees today are adults—median age twenty-eight. More than a quarter have children” (i.e., not high-school and college students working part-time, especially since the 2008 recession.)

The volatile discourse, of course, is on the hot topics of union organization, government intervention on minimum wage and the reality of government assistance in food-stamps and Medicare. It seems at least half of the American population wants to do away with all of these things.  So often I hear people insisting that there be no government involvement in setting minimum wages, no government assistance for low-wage workers and no unions.

Here’s an option I haven’t seen in print yet:

Tip each MacDonald’s cashier as you would tip a restaurant worker – that is offering 20 % of your bill. (That’s $2 dollars for every $10 you spend at McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s etc.)  The cashiers would then share the total in tips with the cooks and janitors, etc.  Would Americans agree to do this?  Would the amounts make a difference?

If the answer is “YES!” then all fast-food workers could potentially afford part-time College courses and get out of the Fast Food industry.  (Yay!)   They could then turn over the entire fast-food worker population to our high school and college part-timers.  (It’s already been proven that students would have to make far more than minimum wage to support themselves through even community colleges.)

Now, of course, there still will be adults with less talent or intellectual abilities who would stay on as fast-food workers, but at least with this “Americans are Generous and Will Tip Program”  they could live on salary and tips and maybe have a family or live alone or with friends if they wish.

The success of this program would prove two things:  Americans ARE generous at heart AND American Fast-Food Corporations are NOT.  Even with Americans subsidizing fast food worker’s salaries through tips, the Fast Food Corporations would maintain their profits while continue to spend millions of dollars in legal fees and payments to the “NRA” (National Restaurant Association) which is dominated by the major fast food and other chain restaurants.  Why would they do this?  Because they would want to maintain and expand their many successful accomplishments defeating the following: “minimum-wage legislation, paid-sick-leave laws, the Affordable Care Act, worker-safety regulations, restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children, menu-labeling requirements, and a variety of public-health measures, such as limits on sugar, sodium, and trans fats” as noted in the New Yorker article.

My last thoughts:  Can churches, synagogues, mosques and temples be of any help in bringing these and other issues into the greater public discourse? Wages and their impact on society are moral issues after all.  The topic is too complicated for the pulpit beyond posing an open-ended question or two while reflecting on a Scripture passage.  Parish Social Justice Committees and Religious Education Directors would need to offer a series or a seminar on the article with or without a featured speaker.  But do all of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have Social Justice Committees and /or do they want them?  Would congregants attend these seminars?  This answer to that may or may not depend on whether or not there fast-food workers among their worshipers or within the neighborhoods they serve.  Still, we are left with the question: shall we support fast food workers in either their desires to organize unions, get the government to legislate a $15. Minimum Wage or support them with alternatives such as tips and food pantries?   Or do we let them take care of themselves if they are able?

Any thoughts?