UP Catholic 09 16 2016 E Edition Page 5

www.upcatholic.org THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY September 16, 2016 5 Where do you work? Its often one of the first questions people ask when they meet. Regardless of what an individual does for a living, work is a topic that is often evaluated against one's dreams and expectations, a topic that invokes worry and stress, and a topic that occupies a significant amount of time. A job can be a lifeline, offering a way to pay the bills, and it can be a source of passion, some- thing that he or she is excited to do. A job can give a sense of purpose, allowing individuals to use their creative, physical, and intellectu- al gifts. For the Catholic Church, work is a way for people to participate in the world around them and have a voice in the way society is shaped. The celebration of Labor Day earlier this month highlighted the impor- tance of work, especially the dignity and sense of identity it brings to individuals. This election cycle, too, has offered economic opportunity as a key issue for voters. The candidates at all levels of politics are currently laying out their visions of the country and its future. Michiganders are able to remind candidates of the need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life, valuing people over profits (Laudato Si, 2015). With visions of what the economy should be also comes the realities of its current struggles, struggles which have become familiar for too many. Pope Francis calls attention to these in Amoris Laetitia, saying economic constraints prohibit a family's access to education, cultural activities and involvement in the life of society. Lack of opportunities for employ- ment and stagnant wages have led to discouragement and poverty. In Michigan, the overall rate of those living in poverty, according to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, was 16.2 percent, with the number climb- ing to 22.6 percent for children under 18. Detroit topped the list of America's major cities, or cities of over 300,000 residents, with those living below the poverty line at 39.3 percent, while Flint topped the list of Michigan cities with 40.1 percent. While declining unemployment rates in Michigan are worth noting - 4.5 percent in July 2016 compared to 5.2 percent a year ago-the pain of those still struggling in poverty and those who have given up looking for work altogether is still very real (U.S. Bureau of Labor). Young peo- ple are more hesitant to enter into marriage and have a family because they are worried about being able to provide for one. And for those with employment, long and demanding hours can conflict with the care of family members. Yet there is always reason to hope. In their annual Labor Day Statement, the U.S. bishops speak to the work that is needed to build a just economy: assisting one's neighbors, creating meaningful opportunities for employ- ment, and helping businesses offer decent wages and working conditions. Every day this is happening. In the midst of struggle, there are individu- als and organizations reaching out to those in need to help them make ends meet. There are those that prepare others for jobs or open up opportuni- ties for employment. There are those willing to help young couples prepare for marriage and to help marriages that are hurting. And there are those that continue to strive to work, even difficult hours, to help shape the di- rection of the nation. May the Catholic Church and her people always contin- ue to be agents of hope on behalf of their faith and the dignity of work. The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Confer- ence (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. Opportunities for work and its impact on society j THE WORD FROM LANSING Paul A. Long IN THE MIDST OF STRUGGLE, THERE ARE INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS REACHING OUT TO THOSE IN NEED TO HELP THEM MAKE ENDS MEET. THERE ARE THOSE THAT PREPARE OTHERS FOR JOBS OR OPEN UP OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMPLOYMENT. T wice this year we have heard in the Gospel about a young son who claimed his inher- itance, left home, blew it all and came back to his father. Probably 99.99 percent of us have heard about the son and the father. Very little has been said about the older son, yet there are lessons for us in his story, too. The older son was no prize pack- age. Did he go to the house to see for himself what was happening? When he learned that his brother had returned he pointedly refused to go in. What did he say when his father came out for him? I have slaved for you all these years. Slaved - my work for you was the grudging work of a slave, not a son and co-owner of the estate. Your son - not my brother. This older son had no relationship with his father except that of slave to owner. He was there because he had to be if he hoped to get the remain- der of the estate at his father's death! There is no hint that the older son even noticed his father's heartbreak when the younger son went away, or that he cared that the father was joy-filled when his son returned. He had no sense of being a son of a loving father! Can we see in the older son a typi- cal Sunday morning bench warmer? Someone there grudgingly only because he couldn't find a good excuse to stay away? One who has little awareness of being in the presence of Jesus, and talking to him and listening to him? On many Sundays our sanctuaries sound more like theater lobbies than holy spaces! How real is the sense of intimacy between each of us and the father? With Jesus? During the liturgy look around - it is sad to see so many attendees simply standing there, refusing to enter into the joyous cele- bration of the community. Some of us are just as much whiners as the older son - you never gave me even a goat to have a party with my friends? The word, Eucharist, means thanksgiving. Are we conscious being at Mass to give praise and thanks! Or are we missing the whole point? The older son certainly thinks of himself as a much better person than his brother. I am tempted to think that perhaps the younger son got fed up with his brother's sense of superiority and decided he didn't need this kind of life. I am afraid that many, especially the young, who have walked away from our community have done so because of the poor behavior and example of the good sons and daughters who ind no joy in celebrating God's love and mercy! How do we overcome these atti- tudes? A good start is to be grateful for all God's gifts, great and small. We can take time to be still and aware of God's presence in an attitude of listening. If, as Pope Benedict XVI said, Intimacy with Jesus is that on which everything depends, then let us learn to listen. Hear God in one another, in the beauty of the world around us - the skies and autumn colors and the laughing of children! Participate in the worship. No one says you must sing loudly, but let the words come from your mind and heart. Sometimes I find in a hymn some wonderful thoughts about which to ponder. Practice seeing in each per- son a brother or sister so that when we say Our Father we truly mean it. Consider yourself not a slave or ser- vant but one for whom it is a privilege to be part of God's saving enterprise. Reach out to the wandering brother or sister. Welcome one who returns joyful- ly, truly glad to have that person back in the family. Above all, learn to listen to God and to one another with not only the mind but also with the heart. Praise God for being a Father who loves each of us and reaches to us, to draw us close to him. Be joyful, mer- ciful, loving, welcoming. Be a truly good son or daughter who stays home out of love. The good son who stayed home REFLECTIONS FROM NORTHSTAR Regis Walling CONSIDER YOURSELF NOT A SLAVE OR SERVANT BUT ONE FOR WHOM IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO BE PART OF GOD'S SAVING ENTERPRISE. Check out The U.P. Catholic's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/theupcatholic

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