When Moses came down from the mountain he had with him the tablets with God’s ten major ordinances – the Ten Commandments. The most important, of course, was that God’s people were to worship Yahweh faithfully and honestly, but down the line a bit there was the one that we now call “VII” – Thou Shalt Not Steal. We all know that stealing is wrong. To intentionally take something that is the private property of another person, is almost in cases a moral evil. I say in almost all because there are certain circumstances which would allow a person to make quick decisions in order to survive; for example, food when faced with hunger. In general, it is always wrong to steal.
But some kinds of theft are worse than others. Walking into a liquor store with a handgun in order to empty the cash register is theft and if you don’t get killed, you certainly can go to jail for a long period of time. You may not understand this but there is a certain honesty in that kind of theft. You have money, I want it and if you don’t give it to me, you are going to get hurt!
However, let me tell you of a worse kind of theft. Put yourself in the executive offices of a fast food place. It doesn’t matter whether it is McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King. You see the hourly charts coming in reflecting that Gene Jones or Raul Martinez worked 52 hours at the minimum wage. No one can actually survive on that in an urban setting. Why should those two guys who sweated for so many hours get so much money? We will just say that he worked 40 hours cutting him out of overtime. Stealing from the poor is, in my opinion, the very lowest form of theft!
A few weeks ago the United States Department of Labor announced the results of a survey indicating that the scope of wage theft in this country is stunning. The practice of stealing wages, commonly called “wage theft”, is a national epidemic. It eats away at the livelihood of already underpaid workers. Eighty percent of surveyed fast food workers experienced off the clock violations, meaning that they were required to work without pay before punching in and after punching out. Forty-eight percent who worked more than 40 hours in a week did not receive overtime pay. Wage theft has ramifications beyond the employees who are cheated. We suffer when wage theft becomes a way of doing business. Law abiding businesses can’t compete with wage cheats who shave their operating costs by breaking the law. The less money that wage earners bring home, the less money they have to spend on basics, such as food, clothing and household necessities depriving local businesses of much needed consumer dollars and hampering our economy. When that happens everyone loses.
The Department of Labor has studied and documented that this heinous crimes. Now let’s give them the charge of cleaning this utterly cruel form of theft up as quickly as possible.
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Christianity is now 2,000 years old and while it is sadly and shamefully divided into many manifestations, there is an amazing amount of unity among the followers of Jesus. There are about one billion, two hundred million Roman Catholics. There are at least 300 or 400 million various Orthodox churches. The Lutherans and the Episcopalians count their membership in the hundreds of millions and there are millions more who are scattered in various smaller Christian denominations.
This division is really a tragedy but it is not really as bad as it seems. There is tremendous commonality among the more than two billion people who have committed themselves to Jesus of Nazareth. Almost without exception, they hold to the divine nature of Jesus. They also believe that his infinitely generous suffering and death has redeemed the human family and offset the consequences of our sins. They also are committed to a fairly unified moral code based on the natural law and the Ten Commandments. So really the Christians of the world are more united than many of us realize. This is a tremendously important fact because the Christians need to be united. They need to work together to take their vision of God and the human family forward.
The world needs the message of Jesus. It needs the important message of God’s love for all of His creatures. Nevertheless, this message is opposed, directly or indirectly, by hundreds of millions of non-Christian religious traditions. In point of fact, Christians are under attack in many places across the world. We need to work together to establish relationships with non-Christian groups and the countless secularists who sadly today are devoid of any religious faith.
CHRISTIANS OF THE WORLD UNITE!!
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It has been a long time since I was in elementary school. Were you around in the 1930’s? I am not familiar with modern methods of education but I am told that they have changed a lot since I was a boy. When I was in All Saints over in the Houston Heights, the Dominican Sisters really believed in memorization. I am told that today’s educators have shifted gears. If that is true, from my perspective, it might have been a mistake.
It has been 70 years since I memorized the “Wreck of the Hesperus,” a little less than that since I converted some of the most important lines in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to memory, but when I want to show off I can still roll them out. It was the same in the religion classes. We had Ten Commandments, seven Sacraments, many gifts of the Holy Spirit and Four Marks of the Church. In the early 1940’s, I could effortlessly tell you that those four marks were that the Catholic Church was “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.” I can still repeat that to you but I have a much clearer understanding of what those important four words mean today than I did in the 6th grade.
Let’s take up the first one – the Catholic Church is “one”. When you say that, some people are startled since the Church is serving in about 180 countries to an extraordinary range of cultures, hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. The membership of the Church ranges over every possible view or human perspective. The only unifying factor in all of this is faith in Jesus Christ and unity with the local hierarchy and the bishop of Rome. The oneness of the Church is one of a unifying structure not a question of cookie cutter identification. The unity of the Church is one of the highest goals perceived by its leadership because it was Jesus himself who challenged his followers to be unified and to be one with him and each other.
“I pray…for those who will believe in me through their word so that they may all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
The unity of the Church is brought about principally by the Holy Spirit, not by competent leadership. There have been tragic rifts in history – first, the split with Orthodoxy in the 11th century and then the devastating explosion of the Reformation in the 16th century. Both were made worse than they had to be by ineffective leadership. Let us thank God for the Holy Spirit and may we continue to work for a reunion across the world of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman Catholic Church is indeed united but Christians as a whole continue a painful and destructive lack of unity. We are called to correct this and everyone has a part to play.
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September 30th, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s texts begin from the book of Wisdom, glide through Hebrews and land forcefully in St. Mark’s listing of the Ten Commandments. At first glance, they look like they are on entirely different subjects but they interlock beautifully. First we have the author of the book of Wisdom personifying that gift as a beautiful, wonderful woman – unbelievably valuable, more valuable than wealth of any kind and certainly more valuable than even good looks and good health. The author states that the person who has good things, “all things come together to me in her company.”
The brief second reading from Hebrews informs us that wisdom is a product that comes to us through God’s word and it is a living thing sharper than a sword and penetrates deep inside our souls. It judges the reflections and thoughts of our hearts and because of God’s word within us nothing is concealed from God to whom we must render an account.
An account about what? That we live according to the norms that he places before us listed in the Ten Commandments but more importantly, in the fleshy tablets of our hearts. The commandments seem quite brief, don’t they? However, actually they implicitly cover virtually everything about human living. They cover all relationships: first and foremost with God, we are to worship him; secondly, our family and then relationships beyond the family, even extending to the ends of the earth. God’s law forbids murder, lying, theft and extends also to intending to do evil even though we do not actually perform the evil acts. The commandments are a big tent and they implicitly cover all human actions. They are the markers. They provide the lines that guide us on our journey. If we follow those markers, that journey takes us to God, our ultimate purpose.
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