Labor Day Reflections from Father Dan Fitzpatrick

23 rd Sunday – 05

A short parable to start:

There was a loud knocking in the seeker’s heart,“Who’s there?” asked the frightened seeker. “It is I, Truth” came the answer “Don’t be ridiculous,” said the seeker. “Truth speaks in silence.” That effectively stopped the knocking – to the seeker’s great relief. What he/she did not know was that the knocking was produced by the fearful beating of his/her own heart.
The Truth that sets us free is almost always the Truth we would rather not hear. So when we say something isn’t true, what we all too frequently mean is, “I do not like it. It is always hard for us to face the truth. Today’s first reading from Ezekiel and today’s Gospel tell us that sometimes we have to face the truth even when it is painful. The recent racial unrest along with the COVID pandemic are urging us to look at a truth we would all rather not see or hear. We are a divided nation. The daily messages and pictures in our papers and on our TV screens cause us all to wonder: “Is this real? How
could all this happen right here in the United States?” The chaos that has occurred is forcing us to ask some questions about the values
we are espousing in our modern American way of life. Is the fact that there have been 188,00 American lives lost to the virus telling us something about the way we are looking at human life? It is not a question of blame and finger-pointing, it is not a question of politics. It is a question of the regard of basic human values, especially of the value we put on human

As the Pope often says we are dealing with a spiritual problem. Our Declaration of Independence tells us that this country was founded on the principle that “all are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Have we forgotten those truths? Have we forgotten the dignity of every human person? Have we lost our vision? Is this present crisis symptomatic of a much deeper and larger problem in our country? Is the pandemic and racial unrest calling us back to the true vision of who we are as a people? Are we living out the priorities we claim to espouse?

As we come to our Labor Day weekend, we usually move back into our normal routine of work and school. Not this year, however! We are facing an unknown future. We would like to think that, when the pandemic has subsided, we will be able to go back to our former ways of living and acting. Are we sure about that? Even more, do we really want that to happen? Change is in the air. Something new is going to emerge out of all that is now confronting us. Will we look at our lifestyle differently? Our use of fossil-fuel energy? Our treatment of the earth’s environment? Will we keep going down the path where “more” is better and not think of what this might mean in ethical or moral values? Will there be sacrifices we all have to make? Is Jesus using these moments in our lives to guide us in a new direction? Do we want to listen to Jesus’ call for a new life? Maybe this special Labor Day weekend is a time to take stock and ask ourselves some basic questions. Who do we really want to be? What kind of a nation do we want to be? How do we let our elected leaders of both parties know that we are not satisfied with the road they have taken? What are the priorities we really want to live by and not speak them meaninglessly with our lips? Is there enough quiet in our lives to allow us to even think about what is happening? We have been living with the pandemic since March. In the last months, we have been faced with protests against racial discrimination. As we look back over the recent past, we are saddened at all the violent and dehumanizing events that have taken place. Could these sad occurrences provide for us a moment to stop, reflect, and change the direction in which we are heading? Can we find a better way to live with one another and with all? Can we really live or not live as people who see every human being as gifted with a divine dignity, every human being as the daughter and son of a loving God? Shouldn’t America be the first among nations in encouraging all people and nations to live in that love and dignity? And, as Catholics, shouldn’t we be leading the way? Sometimes God uses the extraordinary happenings to get our attention and cause us to reflect on our lives. Today’s readings and our celebration of Labor Day call out to us and ask us to be courageous and honest enough to face the truth. We ask for the grace not to be afraid to ask the hard questions. We need God’s help to do that. The Gospel today urges us to face the hard question of division among us and look for ways of reconciliation and forgiveness in dealing with one another. Paul tells us in the second reading from Romans that “love does no evil to the neighbor.” Have we forgotten that we are all neighbors, yes neighbors all across the country! Pray and ask God for what we need to do to face the harsh reality of the present moment. “Where two or three are gathered, there I am with you” As we gather by email, we know that Jesus is with us. He is in our midst as one who serves, as one who cares for all, especially the least among us. Jesus is among us to fill our hearts with love. No matter how hard the questions are before us, we always try and act in a loving way. Anger and frustration may be in our hearts, but these have to be tamed by love so that in the final analysis our actions come forth in love and in concern for our neighbor, for our country, and for our world. Let us take some time over this Labor Day to pray and ask the Lord to help us ask the right questions and be courageous enough to look at the answers even when we may not like what they are saying to us. If we ask the Lord He will give us the grace to be filled with hope. May the Spirit of Jesus with us give us trust now and in the days and months ahead. When we come to the Eucharist, even a Spiritual one, we come to pray. In the Gospel, Jesus encourages us to join together in prayer and promises to be with us. We pray not only for our own country but for the whole world. Let us enlarge our hearts to pray for all across the globe who are caught in this terrible virus and in great unrest and violence. We pray especially for refugees and those suffering the ravages of war that God may watch over them. How do they cope with COVID without the necessary health care and supplies? Let us enlarge our hearts that we may hold the entire world population as we pray and know that Jesus is with us. “Lord, show us your way.”