Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time [c]

Engaging Faith | Mon, Aug 30, 2010

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time [c]

    September 5, 2010

Wisdom 9:13-18b
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

September 6: Labor Day in the United States
September 8: Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 8: at sunset, the start of Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year
September 11: Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks of 2001


The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the State and the marketplace. At times it seems as though the individual exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of State administration. People lose sight of the fact that life in society has neither the market nor the State as its final purpose.
John Paul II, Centesius Annus, 49

The rush and pressure of modern life are a form of its innate violence. To allow myself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist...destroys the fruitfulness of one's own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
Thomas Merton

The affluent society or the consumer society … seeks to defeat Marxism on the level of pure materialism by showing how a free-market society can achieve a greater satisfaction of material human needs than Communism, while equally excluding spiritual values. In reality, while on the one hand it is true that this social model shows the failure of Marxism to contribute to a humane and better society, on the other hand, insofar as it denies an autonomous existence and value to morality, law, culture and religion, it agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces the human person to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.
John Paul II, Centesius Annus, 19

Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry.  Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. … Once we are able to live simply and happily, we are better able to help others.
Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh, 92-3

It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards "having" rather than "being", and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.
John Paul II, Centesius Annus, 36

Thoughts for your consideration

Jesus seems to be saying that if you do not know your limits, you will end up doing “stupid things.” You end up building a house which you cannot finish.  You end up fighting a war that you cannot win. You end up attaching excessive value to your possessions. You will end up not doing the life giving thing God wants.

The first reading also reminds us of our limits. The world is more than the material. Material things are not the most important.

Jesus goes so far as to say that we should renounce our possessions.  It seems that so many people spend their life and all their energy getting, protecting and worrying about more and more material things.  Jesus invites us to a freedom from all that. In other words, we are called to renounce materialism and keep our values in perspective. We might even hear a call to adopt a simpler style of life and move away from the “consumerism” that dominates our culture.

Jesus goes so far as to say that we should even renounce members of our family. One way to think of this strange command is to see it an invitation to freedom – as an invitation or radical challenge not to see any person as a possession – as a person that we “own.”  Unless parents “let go” of their children, there can be no healthy adult relationship.  Unless we treat each other as adults, filled with the dignity and freedom that comes from God, we cannot really be Christian brothers and sisters.

Catholic Social Teaching is based on the dignity of the human person. No person can be the “possession” of another.  No person’s value is found in what they own or control or possess. No one is to be a slave to things.  Rather we are all called to be free. Maybe that is what Paul is trying to talk about in the second reading when he talks about treating Onesimus as a brother and no longer as a slave.

As we celebrate Labor Day this weekend, we are challenged to apply our Catholic teaching about the dignity of the human person to the situation of workers in our economy.  Bishop Murphy’s Labor Day statement reminds us of our values:
While it is not the role of the Church to propose a concrete economic blueprint for the future, the words of Pope Benedict should remind us that a key, perhaps the key, to overcoming the current economic situation is to unleash the creative forces of men and women. People, not things, must be the center—and the ultimate measure—of new initiatives for our nations’ economy, as well as the economies in which we are in competitive and cooperative relationships around the world.

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

What things have you given up or let go of?  
When have you realized your limits and given up something you wanted?  
Did it result in any sense of freedom or new life?


How has the unemployment and underemployment of the current recession effected you and your family and your community of friends and neighbors?
What does our Catholic social teaching say to our situation?

Actions - Links

Labor Day Statement
Labor Day 2010: A New “Social Contract” for Today’s “New Things”
By Most Reverend William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre
Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“The market, the state, and civil society, unions and employers all have roles to play and they must be exercised in creative and fruitful interrelationships. Private action and public policies that strengthen families and reduce poverty are needed. New jobs with just wages and benefits must be created so that all workers can express their dignity through the dignity of work and are able to fulfill God’s call to us all to be co-creators. A new social contract, which begins by honoring work and workers, must be forged that ultimately focuses on the common good of the entire human family.”

Prayers of Intercession

Response:  Creator God, bless us all and help us all labor for the common good.
For all workers in our economy, that they may enjoy the just fruits of their labor, we pray….
For all those who still do not receive a living wage for their labor, we pray….
For all those who are unemployed or underemployed, that they may find good and productive work, we pray…..
For those who have been injured or killed in the course of their work, we pray….
For our government and its leaders, that they may adopt policies that “protect the life and dignity of each worker in a renewed and robust economy,” we pray….
That the market, the state, civil society, unions and employers, all work together for the common good, we pray…..

Prayer – Meditation

Prayer for Labor Day by Edie Rasell taken from Interfaith Worker Justice and found at

Loving, Working God,
On this Labor Sunday we ask your special blessing on all people who labor, either for pay or as volunteers, in jobs or at school, in the workplace or at home, in the U.S. and around the world.
We especially pray for your blessings on workers who do not have jobs and for those whose inadequate pay does not allow them to live the full life you intend for each of us.
Creator God, help us to build a new world in the midst of the old.
A world where all workers are valued.
A world where those who clean houses are also able to buy houses to live in.
A world where those who grow food can also afford to eat their fill.
We pray for the coming of a world where all workers everywhere share in the abundance that you have given us.
We ask these things knowing that you give us the courage and strength to live out our faith in the workplace and the marketplace, as well as in the sanctuary.