27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Reading 1 Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Reading 2: Pault’s Letter to the Philippians 4:6-9: GOSPEL: MATTHEW 21:33-43

Here’s a LIST for us to consider:

  • Cain and Abel.
  • Joseph and the envy of his Brothers
  • King Saul’s paranoia and jealousies against the shepherd David
  • Arguments Among the Apostles as to who is the greatest
  • Peter regarding “the beloved” in John’s Gospel
  • Judas Iscariot personality of constant suspicion, cynicism, pride, and willful attempts to manipulate Jesus to the point of betrayal
  • Centuries of the Promulgation of Anti-Semitism
  • Catholic and Protestant Wars of Religion
  • Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope’s corruption, and greed
  • Original American Constitution -filled with so many foundational goods—yet willfully ignoring the outrage of Slavery
  • The US Supreme Court –remember its dreadful Dredd Scott decision confirming freed slaves as property to be returned to their masters? A decision for political concerns not for what was right.
  • The irrefutable sins that lead to the Great Depression, the suffering of millions of people throughout the world. What resulted from that? The Second World War.
  • The realities of systemic poverty contributed greatly to the rise of ideologies such as Fascism, the Nazi party, and Communist Dictatorship, Terrorism and Radical Islam
  • Egregious greed lead to the economic collapse of 2008. Then banks foreclosed on homes without negotiating with current owners only to re-sell the homes at much lower prices.
  • Scandals in the Church, Sports, Medicine, Scouts, Schools deprived millions of trust in institutions meant to serve and educate the public

Do we not realize that so much of our personal, national and world histories and many of our current crisis repeatedly disavow FOUR of the Great Commandments:  One: “Thou Shall Not Covet another’s possessions,” Two: “Thou Shall Not Steal;” Three: “Thou Shall Not Kill;”  Four:  “I Am the Lord, your God, you shall not have false gods before me.”  ALL who thwart these commandments are INDICTED by today’s Scripture Readings. 

Yes, the parable was meant to reflect how the people rejected Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Covenant, but its application does not stop there. The parable’s vineyard workers offer a paradigm of entitlement, selfishness, and greed –sins every people, every nation are prone to commit, sins that continue to be an offense against Christ and His Body.  We are indicted like these vineyard workers as we continue to reject Jesus and His Gospel. Christ made it clear—just as the Hebrew prophets did before him:  humanity’s advancement is not to be at the expense or subjugation of any person or group.  Furthermore, as we commemorate Saint Francis of Assisi this Sunday, we are not to abuse the earth, its natural resources, and the animal kingdom—for all relationships impact one another.   Still, we have choices.  We have faith to guide us. Yet, the Scriptures urge CAUTION, lest we descend into the Vineyard workers’ selfish rebellion.

It is time we accept how counter-cultural the Gospel is. All of us have put our faith in too many princes, too many idols, too many ideologies that distract us from Jesus.  Jesus, who alone, is “our King and our God.”

Jesus’ tells us that there are tragic consequences for those who deny Faith’s reality: That all we have, and all we are, is a gift from God.  In gratitude we are to cultivate –what Saint Paul wrote – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.”

We pray at Every Eucharist: “Grant us, O Lord, unity and peace” doesn’t that mean we must participate, cooperate, collaborate with all people for a better earth, a more just and compassionate society? That is what UNITY means.

Since Vatican II, the Church finally abandoned its triumphalism (that hell awaits all who are not Catholic) in deference to grace and to God’s mercy offered to people of every ethnicity, faith, and nation. It is time we as individuals, as members of imperfect families, as members of a fallible Church, Nation, and World, that we renew our commitment to advance God’s Kingdom with greater fervor.  If we do not, Jesus’ parable tells us there will be consequences.  Our choices not only impact the poor today but future generations, too, will suffer; not to mention the grave detriment to our souls’ salvation.  

NOW is the time to cultivate our conscience to an extreme daily dedication to love of God and neighbor, lest the words of the Our Father make hypocrites of us all.  Last week our Jewish brothers and sisters observed a day of Atonement. Let today be ours! 

The signs of our times demand greater humility among all Catholic peoples.  Lest we be discouraged, this mandate is not to disavow the good in us, the good and even the great things we as individuals and all humanity have accomplished.  Nevertheless, our goodness requires balancing it with the reality of our sins and our failures. Clearly, we are not achieving the purpose for which God made us.  Enough of pride!  Enough of arrogance!  Enough of resentment, and greed–off to the devil with them all, I say.  It’s time a scrupulous examination of conscience engage us, our Church and nation.  If not for the blessed assurance that a contrite heart will fortify God’s grace in us, we are lost. May today’s Word and Eucharist humble us, inflame our desire for the Holy Spirit’s fire! Re-commit ourselves to Jesus today! Through Him, with Him and In Him, may we become what we are called to be:  LIGHT FOR THE WORLD!  

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!

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?