The Dignity of Work and Original Sin

It doesn’t matter what economic system a country uses, the “haves” inevitably accrue power to the disadvantage of the “have-nots.” 

Communist utopianism promised a world where this did not happen. But the actual outcome is that communism, by its very nature, vests so much power in government that the abuse of the people it governs is built into it.

The utopian fantasy of unregulated capitalism is that everyone will have an equal chance to build a heaven of his or her own. What happens in actual practice is that those who get there first accrue so much power for themselves that they can and do pervert government to their ends, destroying their competitors and shutting down opportunity for everyone but themselves.

Democracy’s utopian fantasy is that the people will be able to prevent either of these abuses by their use of their power to replace those who govern through elections. In reality, those who “have” can afford to pay for the vast expenses of modern-day campaigning, thus putting their puppets in office and subverting the power of the people.

The reasons for these failures don’t lie in the economic systems or forms of government themselves so much as in their naive assumptions about human nature. You cannot build a just society without taking into consideration the fallen nature of human beings.

I don’t know of any theory of human interaction that even begins to explain the data of thousands of years of human society except the theory of original sin. It fits our human reality like the proverbial glove.

Pope Francis preached on the dignity of work a few days ago. The occasion was the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. Work is an essential component to a fulfilled and happy life. Work is the way we master the world and advance our civilization. It gives shape to our days and provides us with the goods that are necessary for our survival in this life.

Jesus worked. He was God in human flesh, but He did not disdain to work at the humble craft of carpenter. That imbues work with a dignity that lifts it above the curse of Eden. Work that is shaped by our humanity and that serves our inborn need to create and grow civilization, does far more than sustain our bodily needs. It is the mechanism by which we shape a better us, and a better world.

However work that is placed on people like a yoke on an ox is an assault to their dignity as people made in the image and likeness of the living God. Likewise, avoidance of work to live off others, whether that means idling away the years on the largesse of parents, or living on the government dole — and I include many corporations in this as well as individuals — is also an assault on human dignity that wastes human potential.

Pope Francis spoke about a recent tragedy in which many people were killed because of an employer’s disregard for their safety. Profits, he said, can never be more important than human beings.

That is the Christian viewpoint. It is also one of those points where many stalwart supporters of Church teachings back up and start arguing.

There are fault lines along which contemporary Christians try to bargain with God and get out of obeying what the Gospels make clear they should do. Almost always, these fault lines occur at points where the Church teaches about the dignity of human beings.

Whether the question is gay marriage or abortion; profits that kill or pornography, that answer from those who want to do these things is always the same. I am right and God is wrong; I will do as I want, they proclaim. Many times, the people who are so arrogantly trying to teach morality to God are the same ones who wear out their index fingers pointing out other people’s sins.

Self righteousness is not righteousness.

Every single one of us, me included, needs to be reminded of that on a daily basis.

From the Vatican:

Cardinal Warns Bishops About Seeing Themselves as a ‘Mere Manager or Functionary’

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Cardinal Marc Ouellet gave a homily at the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales a few weeks ago that seems particularly pertinent in light of the scandal in New Jersey. 

Rather than comment on it, I’m going to let Cardinal Oullet’s words speak for themselves:

My brother bishops, you face many challenges In your apostolic ministry in England and Wales. Perhaps you can identify with Peter and John as they are dragged before the Sanhedrin to be pressured, threatened and even beaten to stop proclaiming the saving Truth of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you can sense viscerally the pressure to obey men rather than God, to see yourself-as a mere manager or functionary rather than a disciple and an apostle.

 

Yet as St Peter discovers, the encounter with Jesus on the shore and the food He shares with him is not only for him and the Apostles. It is also for Jesus’ lambs and His sheep. Real love for Him, Jesus is telling Peter, has to be shown in love for others, love shown in deeds of self-giving and service.

The Venerable Bede, commenting on today’s Gospel, reminds us of this. He writes: “[T]he Lord added at the end of each inquiry [to Peter], ‘Feed my sheep,’ or ‘Feed my lambs,’ as if he were clearly saying: ‘There is only one true proof of wholehearted love of God – if you strive to exercise care by labouring solicitously on behalf of your brothers ‘” (Bede the Venerable, Homily 1122 on the Gospels).

 

Pope Francis, also makes us feel uncomfortable. One thing I have noticed, even in my personal meetings with him, is that Pope Francis’ sole criterion is Jesus Christ. The Holy Father does not get distracted by peripheral considerations. He goes to the heart of things with simplicity and boldness. You recall that just two days after his election he said to the Cardinal Electors gathered in Rome: “If we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord …. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness” (Homily from Missa pro Ecclesia with the Cardinal Electors, March 14,2013).

 

When you return home refreshed by prayer and rest in the Lord, let the joyful presence of the Risen Christ in your heart become an open space for your sheep or even a shore where He can meet them and give them love and hope. Amen.

You can read the full text here

Video: Pope Emeritus Benedict’s Return to the Vatican

Pope Emeritus Benedict returned to the Vatican today.

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict will live a short distance to one another. I’ve read reports that the Pope Emeritus’ brother will probably live in the same building with him. Ironically, even though two popes will be in residence at the Vatican, the Papal Apartment will be empty.

The video below shows his arrival, as well as a retrospective about the day he left the papacy. The video of the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis praying together are from Pope Francis’ earlier visit with his predecessor.

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Name That Photo: Flying Hats and the Papacy

What’s your caption for this duo of Holy Fathers and their flying hats?

Benedict loses hat

 

Pope loses hat

Pope Francis: Go Against the Tide and Change the World

It is called the Great Commission.

Jesus told His disciples:

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands that I have given you. And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Pope Francis echoed a version of that when he told young people to “go against the tide and change the world.” That is the specific business of all Christians, everywhere. The reason I am writing this blog is to do my small part to equip and encourage Christians to do exactly that.

We are not meant to just save our own little selves. We are here in this life for a purpose, and a core part of that purpose — which is the vocation of every Christian — is to witness to the Gospels with our lives. That means, by definition, that we must go against the tide.

Jesus Christ was not and is not just another man. He was and is and always will be, to paraphrase St Thomas, “our Lord and our God.”

Christianity is not a philosophy. It is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The only way Christians can change the world is by going against the tide. Joshua told the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” That challenge is repeated to each succeeding generation.

What is your answer?

From the Vatican YouTube Feed:

Published on Apr 28, 2013

“Build on high ideals, on the big things. We Christians are not chosen by the Lord for small little things, always go above and beyond, to the big things. Those were the Pope’s words to 70,000 young people from all over the world, gathered in St Peter’s Square on the occasion of the celebration of Mass with the Rite of Confirmation. The event, organized as part of the Year of Faith, saw Pope Francis, confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on 44 young people. To them and to all those present, the Pope asked him to go against the tide and change the world with daily gestures of love, despite the difficulties, armed with the courage that the Lord gives us. “There are no troubles, misunderstandings that we …

http://youtu.be/X1dlCDL8quU

Pope Francis: The Whole Journey of Life is a Journey of Preparation for Heaven

Many mansions I have a friend who told me once that her goal in life was to go to heaven.

I found this a little startling at the time. I had always thought of going to heaven as more of a by-product than a goal. My view was something like “you follow Jesus and trust Him and going to heaven is a by-product of that.”

I had never considered that heaven might be a goal that you aimed for all on its own. However, this particular friend is such a good Christian and so deeply wise in ways that I am still learning that I never questioned that there was a truth I didn’t understand in what she had said.

Time has passed and she and I are both older. As usual, I am slowly coming around to the spiritual truth that she saw all along. Heaven isn’t something you can earn with your good works. It certainly isn’t a territory that you can seize by force. It is the destination of a life lived in Christ.

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In a real sense, we are already citizens of heaven right now as we live out our time in this life. Following Jesus means walking the Way that leads straight through the Pearly Gates.

Pope Francis spoke of something similar to this in his morning homily yesterday. “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation for heaven,” he said.

He was teaching about the Gospel passage which relates Jesus, telling the Disciples that He is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Jesus was talking about his return to heaven and the Disciples ultimate destination of heaven.

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Pope Francis applied what Jesus said to the disciples to the lives of every Christian. “Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he said.

I think what my friend was trying to tell me is something very like what Pope Francis said yesterday. If we live our lives properly, they are a preparation, a kind of getting in shape, for the life to come. 

I’ve always thought that is the real purpose of purgatory. I don’t see it as punishment, but as cleaning up, refitting us so that we can be happy in heaven. There is no way most of us are ready for heaven when we leave this earth. We need a way station of some sort to get our heads right for heaven.

But there are those, like my friend, who are close to being good to go right now. They’ve lived their lives pointing heaven-ward by following Jesus from the inside of their beings out to their smallest actions.

I’m the last person to be an expert on this, considering the way I’ve lived my life and the way I keep on messing up even now. I’m far from thinking heaven-ward. But I am slowly beginning to start.

It may be just that I’m getting older. It may be that the world in which I live is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. But heaven is becoming more real to me.

I am beginning to realize that heaven is home. 

From CNA:

.- “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation” for heaven, Pope Francis said during his homily at Friday morning Mass.

The Pope reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John for today in which Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid or troubled because he goes to prepare a place in the Father’s house for them.

“Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance, to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he remarked.

Members of the Vatican Typography office attended the Eucharistic celebration on April 26, alongside the Vatican Labor Office and Vatican State Police inside St. Martha’s House chapel.

The Pope noted that Jesus talks “like a friend, even with the attitude of a pastor.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me,” says Jesus, according to today’s Gospel.

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Christ asked the disciples.

The Pope called these “really beautiful words” and asked the congregation what they thought that “place” was like. (Read the rest here.) 

Pope Francis Calls for Release of Kidnapped Orthodox Bishops

Pope Francis called for the release of two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped earlier this week.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were on a humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of people who had been kidnapped earlier. They were attacked and kidnapped. Their driver was killed.

Reports circulated later that the bishops had been released, but they proved to be untrue. The fate of the archbishops appears to be unknown. 

From Daily News

 

Pope calls for release of Syria bishops

VATICAN CITY 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

Pope Francis called yesterday for the release of two Syrian bishops kidnapped by gunmen near Aleppo after a Christian group appeared to retract its claim that the clerics had been freed.Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac OrthodoxBishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men en route from the Turkish border. Speaking to an audience of around 100,000 at the Vatican, Francis said there were “contradictory reports” about the fate of the bishops and asked that “they be returned quickly to their communities.” On April 23, the “Oeuvre d’Orient” Christian association announced that the bishops had been released, but it backed away from the claim yesterday. “Yesterday evening we received information from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate questioning the release of the two bishops,” said Catherine Baumont, a spokeswoman for the group, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians. (Read more here.) 

Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story

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The Catholic Church is a human institution. Human frailty and sin affect the Church just as they do you and me. 

“Wars of religion” are an example Pope Francis gave of this human frailty in action, a “wrong path … that is not the story of love.”

Despite the human weaknesses of the people who make up the Church, he said the Church itself is “a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother.”

From CNA:

.- The Church is not merely “a human enterprise,” but rather “a love story,” said Pope Francis, and the faithful must remember that it is only in the path of love that the Church can grow.

The Church began “in the heart of the Father,” said the Pope at an April 24 Mass for Vatican Bank employees in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

“So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended,” he explained. “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Pointing to the growth and persecution of the early Church, Pope Francis stressed that the faithful must not compromise to get “more partners in this enterprise,” Vatican Radio reported.

He cautioned that “the Church does not grow by human strength” but through the path of love. (Read more here.) 

Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Kidnapped Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

Kidnapped Archbishop Paul Yagizi

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here

Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio.

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It appears that Francis, the phone-call-making Pope, also will continue as the black-shoe-wearing Pope — the black-old-shoe-wearing Pope.

Rather than replace his old shoes, the Holy Father called the man who has been making and repairing his footwear for some 40 years, 81-year-old Carlos Samaria, of Buenos Aires.

True to form, Pope Francis placed the call to order the repairs himself.

“Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio,” he began. “Who is this?” the shoemaker asked. “Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” came the answer.

The shoemaker said that Pope Francis told him “No red shoes, black like always.”

It sounds as if our Holy Father takes a mischievous delight in these conversations. Maybe it lessens the isolation of his new life when he picks up the phone and reaches out to people, especially to old friends like Señor Samaria.

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Pope Francis’ Sister, Maria Bergoglio

I read an interview Pope Francis’ sister gave shortly after his election in which she spoke of the loneliness of the Papacy, describing the time she met Pope John Paul II.

“When I fell to my knees to kiss his ring, I looked up and saw a gaze of such love, but at the same time of infinite loneliness,” she said.

Pope Francis lives in community rather than the isolation of the papal apartment and he makes his own phone calls. I hope these things give this good man some measure of community to comfort him as He shepherds us through the times ahead.

From CNA:

.- Pope Francis, who has quickly become known for his austere style, will continue using his simple black shoes and has called his shoemaker from his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina to repair them.

For 40 years, 81 year-old Carlos Samaria has provided shoes from his store on the outskirts of the Argentine capital for Pope Francis, who was known before his election to the papacy as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

“Hello Samaria, it’s Bergoglio,” the phone conversation began.

“But who is this?” the shoemaker responded with surprise.

“Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” the Holy Father replied.

Read the rest here.


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