Friday, July 4, 2014


On the Church calendar the 4th of July this year is simply Friday of the 13th week in Ordinary Time. The readings however seem providential.

We continue reading the Prophet Amos and today he goes after the rich and merchant classes.

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?”

Not only was the Sabbath a Holy Day but Rosh Chodesh, the new moon of each month. Remember, the Hebrew calendar is lunar not solar.

Is Bible condemning business and wealth? No. What it is condemn is wrong priorities and compartmentalization. When profit becomes the number one priority, and people compartment their lives in order to rationalize it.

In a Christian context it is the man or woman who goes to Church every Sunday, prays regularly, but then run their business in a cut-throat manner. Every time I hear someone make the excuse that a CEO's job is to make as much money as possible, I want to scream not if they are Jewish or Christian. The Judeo-Christian moral theology says you can't set aside your moral obligations when they get in the way of making more money.

Other famous cases are people like the spy Robert Hansen who attended mass daily, and all the while was spying for the KGB. How could he do it? The same way, as the people Amos is talking to. He simply divided his life up into little boxes and never thought about them touching. So in his mind: one was his religious life, one was his personal life, one was his work life, and one was his spy life.

The virtue that is missing is integrity. Integrity begins by realizing that each of us has only one life. I can call myself by many titles. I am an American, a Catholic, a priest, a judge, brother, uncle, friend. But no matter how many titles, I am only one person. That means the same moral rules must guide every aspect of my life.

While most of us may not have to wrestle with the large scale lack of integrity. We all wrestle with it on the smaller but more insidious scale. If you are barely out the door of the Church on Sunday before you are gossiping with your friends or fussing about the other drivers on the road, or losing your temper with the kids. That's a lack of integrity. Singing about love one minute and 10 minutes later calling someone an idiot- lack of integrity.

To be a person of true integrity it a constant battle. The earth rotates at about 1000 mph. And in some ways we are like objects in a centrifuge. Family, work, politics all tending to pull apart. As Christians the gospel must be the cement that holds them all together, all the time, informing our every word and action.

Today we celebrate being American, but we are and must always be Christian-Americans. People of true integrity.