People really get carried away. Did you read those excited stories in the papers talking about the extraordinary mineral riches in Afghanistan? I am sure the news was true. Afghanistan is blessed with vast stores of lithium, iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and other valuables. However, we should be calm and realistic. The presence of these riches is not going to be easily translated into production that would enter into the international economy. It will take decades.
Afghanistan is an exceptionally undeveloped country with an uneducated population in a very difficult terrain. Minerals cannot be developed and used until the educational level of the country is enhanced. Even when that happens every effort must be made to not have Afghanistan’s wealth abused by economic forces from the other side of the world, leaving the general population just as poor as they were before but maybe having had their culture and traditions taken away from them. Minerals are a sign of hope but wisdom and justice must be utilized properly if that hope is to produce results.
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Not Barbara Bush, wife of the first President Bush, but Barbara Bush, daughter of the second President Bush. The Bush’s twin daughters have, for the most part, worked hard at staying out of the spotlight but one of them, Barbara, recently went on Fox News for an interview and the subject of healthcare came up. Barbara expressed her view that she was happy that President Obama had managed to pass healthcare reform. That may have created some consternation at Fox News!
It shouldn’t have. Shortly after graduating from Yale Barbara helped found Global Health Corps, whose mission is to bring “health equity” to the U.S. and across the globe. The struggle for national healthcare has been going on for more than sixty years. It is now the official policy of the United States of America. With this decision, we now join every other developed country in the world. This bill is not perfect and will take some work because the transition is extraordinarily complex, but in twenty years, people will be wondering what all the fuss was about. The fact that President Bush’s daughter has that view and has herself worked hard to bring justice and equity in the healthcare situation is a credit to the fact that gradually our nation is catching up with the rest of the world.
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Everything in nature, all of creation, can be divided into one of two categories – material or spiritual. Everything out there is either one or the other with one exception – human beings.
We are so familiar with ourselves that we usually don’t have a sense of awe about ourselves. We should! A human being is extraordinarily complex. We share life with all the other living beings that are simply material. Whether it be a field of corn, tigers in Africa or snakes slithering through the grass we have much in common with them. The same is true in the other direction. God is pure spirit and the angels that he has created are also pure spirits. Then you come to ourselves. In a mysterious way that is really impossible to completely understand we unite all of creation in our individual being. We are material beings, we are spiritual beings but those realities are joined with us to make us one awesome being.
We don’t want to become narcissistic but we should have a healthy respect that each one of us is so unique. Each one of us share with all creation everything that is spiritual or material, but we are the only being that encompasses both aspects of reality within our own individual lives.
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Tomorrow is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time and for this day the Church has chosen as the Gospel an excerpt the ninth chapter of St. Luke, verses 51 to 62.
The scene has Jesus journeying towards Jerusalem. In this short excerpt, several men came up to him and expressed a strong desire to join his followers. In each case, they had other things they needed to take of first, namely settling things out with their families. Jesus challenged them that he required a solid commitment and that they should not be looking back. While the main point of this brief scene is that Jesus does expect solid and true commitment to his cause, a more important concept is to be found in the overall Gospel of St. Luke. The whole Gospel is about the fact that Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. Time after time throughout the Gospel, the expression will be seen, “And Jesus continues on to Jerusalem.” In other words, the whole Gospel can be summarized by the fact that Jesus’ public life was a journey that was to culminate in Jerusalem with his triumphal entry and then suffering death and resurrection.
All of us are challenged in our own lives to clearly let our ultimate goal and let nothing deviate us from that journey to that goal. For Jesus it was to achieve the redemption of the human condition. For us it is to make sure that we benefit from what Jesus has done for us. Jerusalem is a symbol of our eternal destiny. Let us not be confused by other goals.
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In this spot, I occasionally express my fear and concern about various problems and weaknesses we see within the Catholic Church at the beginning of the 21st century. These concerns are real because the problems are real, but I have to stop occasionally and make myself realize that although we have to be sensitive to problems, we must also see them in the context of overall strengths and accomplishments. This is not only a fair way to approach life but it also helps to avoiding discouragement.
The Church today? Well, needless to say, I am going to by-pass theological issues, such as being sent into the world by our Lord himself or his continued presence in the Eucharist. Rather I am going to talk about strengths at the natural level. For me, one of the greatest strengths of the Church is something that is virtually important for an organization that is now 2,000 years and has been promised that it will be around until the end of time. I am referring to the gift of stability.
I am a Catholic bishop and I have the same job that St. Augustine had as Bishop of Hippo in the 4th century, the same job that Irenaeus had in the 2nd century. Living as it has through these 20 centuries, the Church has experienced things both wonderful and terrible – massive conversions, political convulsions, countless saints and scandalously failed leaders. However, through it all the Church is stable. From century to century, it goes on in calm confidence of its origins and optimistic about its endurance. Jesus promised that the Church would last until the end of time. However, he did not guarantee what condition it would be in. It is up to us to take his commission and the continuing grace, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and move the Church into the future with greater effectiveness in bringing the good news to this battered human family.
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Whenever retail businessmen get together you will almost always hear an expression about the three principles of successful business: location, location, location.
Education is key to a successful democracy and economy. Education is extraordinarily important to the United States of America.
That having been said, why is there so much concern about so many different aspects of our educational system? There are tremendous inequalities between wealthy school districts and low-income school districts. There are many arguments about what is the best way to educate our students at any particular level. We find that in older school districts parents whose children are long gone from the nest are not wildly enthusiastic about voting for the necessary taxes for the schools. The problems go on and on. Given these realities, one needs to look for sources of encouragement and confidence. When one looks, they are to be found!
I am impressed with a new charter school in Harlem. I saw a report on it on national TV and did not get the name, but they are taking the poorest kids in the neighborhood and motivating them to a first-rate high school education and almost 100% of their students are going to college. This is a tremendous breakthrough.
On the Roman Catholic side, I am thrilled by the recent development over the last ten years of a little network called the Cristo Rey schools, sponsored by the Society of Jesus. They are doing the same thing – taking students from the very poorest neighborhoods, giving them a tremendous education and sending them on into college with the tools to succeed wonderfully. There are now 25 schools around the country. Let’s hope that there will soon be hundreds.
We can bemoan our problems but we also have to be thankful that new models are coming along that are showing us the way out of the darkness.
God bless the Jesuits.
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I read two newspapers every day, which means that on average I read six or eight editorials and columns of opinion. I read them because they are interesting, and it is a way to follow other views that are circulating around us and a way to keep informed. Most of the time those columns don’t get me excited. Frequently, they are a rehash of the Gulf oil spill or the startling new government coalition in England. However, I read one last week that really excited me.
This column was written by David Brooks of the New York Times. It was on the subject of classical education, the importance of studying the humanities. Brooks bemoans the fact that with the job market getting evermore tight many students flee from studying the humanities fearing that if they become an English or history major their job opportunities will be less and more limited. There has already been a nearly 50% drop in the portion of liberal arts majors over the last generation.
We know that we need the technicians, physicists, aeronautical engineers, cardiologists and other specialties. These awesomely important fields of study and competence cannot get to the essence of human behavior. They don’t explain the mystery in life. Our nation and the world desperately need men and women of profound wisdom. Brooks points out that over the last century or so people have built up various systems to help them understand human behavior – economics, political science, evolutionary psychology, etc., etc. Necessary as these are they cannot explain the heart of human behavior because deep down people have passions and drives that don’t lend themselves to systematic or scientific modeling. We can be thankful that over the centuries there have been people among us who have grasped the pressing reality present in upheavals of thought and represent them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. These men and women help us to understand the inner yearnings and forces affecting us. They left rich veins of emotional knowledge that are subject of the humanities.
Let’s hear it for the humanities!
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My heart goes out to President Obama. No one on the planet is under more pressure to deal with extraordinarily difficult and complex problems than is he. I hope that his need to be optimistic and encouraging to the country does not get in the way of clear thinking that will enable us to cut through to some of these problems. First, there is the monumental petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico just south of New Orleans. The effect is catastrophic and as of today, the end is not in sight. From the very beginning, both BP and the administration have hesitated to correctly spell out how bad the situation is. In the first weeks, there was almost a lackadaisical attitude; we’ve done this before and we will be able to take care of it. Now nobody is too sure and to when and if the leak can be contained.
Another monumental problem is the question that this so-called recovery is not producing jobs. Considerably more than ten million people are out of work. When you come up with a national average that doesn’t mean that unemployment is spread evenly around the country. Certain areas are hit much harder than others. Examples would be Michigan, Tennessee. Last week when the unemployment figures came out, other than the tens of thousands being provided with temporary jobs in the census, that only 41,000 jobs were created. The president is quoted as saying that, “this is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.” Not so. Most of us are not in a position to hire our fellow Americans, but we are in a position to communicate with our leaders at every level and urge them to make the creation of new jobs the top economic priority of the country. One thing we all can do is to help with various programs that provide assistance to the unemployed but it is far more important that these same people be put to productive work where they again will be taxpayers, which is what they desperately want.
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When I was growing up in the ‘40’s the Catholic school I attended would frequently spotlight the great work of the Christian missionaries overseas. The teachers would talk about these brave people and the difficulties that they faced. Occasionally, one or two would come by the parish and the school and give us exciting reports about going up the Amazon in a canoe or trying to bring the joyful message of Jesus to unbelieving throngs of Asians. I knew that it was tough work but we actually didn’t think that many of them lost their lives because they were missionaries.
Last month Fides, a Vatican News Agency, just released information informing us that 37 Catholic missionaries were killed in 2008. Eighteen priests, two seminarians, two lay people and one religious woman were murdered! Tragically, there is still a great deal of hatred across this planet and the irony of ironies is that these heroic missionaries sometimes become targets of hateful suspicious groups. The number of 37 may not seem too large in view of the thousands of missionaries the Church has scattered across the world. But each one of these deaths is a terrible tragedy that a person, motivated by their faith in Jesus, would go off to spread the good news and instead would die violently at the hands of people who are driven by hatred. Next time a missionary is speaking at your church about this great work see that person as a man or a woman who made not only giving their life to the service of Christ but also are risking their life at the edge of martyrdom.
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Tomorrow the liturgy of the Catholic Church will draw its readings from the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time and we will take a look at the Gospel. Sunday is also Father’s Day in the United States. Moreover, for African Americans in Texas Sunday is also “Juneteenth,” a colloquial way that has been used to describe this important day in Texas Black history. Though the Civil War ended earlier in the spring in 1865, it was not until June 19th that officers of the United States Army came into Texas and informed the former slaves that they were now free. It would be easy to express a few opinions on each one of these topics but I think I will try to pull them all together and say a few words about Black Catholic fathers.
The Gospel drawn from the eighth chapter of Luke talks about the sacrifice and sufferings that Jesus would undergo for our benefit. Tomorrow, most American families will try to find some way to honor their fathers, grandfathers or father figures in the family. I believe that African American fathers need to be celebrated in a very special way as they have experienced suffering and pain which in no way stopped with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865.
Regretfully, the traditional family has been under severe attack in America for a good many years and Blacks have suffered in this process more than any other group in American society. There is a wonderful movement within the Black community to help fathers more effectively fulfill their responsibilities to their families and being concerned about their children’s health and education, but, more importantly, to be able to be examples to their children of good moral living and the ability to sacrifice and live for others. Let’s pray for the fathers who preside over families that are centers of faith, harmony, love and generosity.
Let’s pray for all fathers today but in a very special way let’s pray for the great work being done in Black Christian families.
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