It’s the Fourth of July and I decided to stop in the office to make sure my column is done for this week’s edition of the Catholic Sun. I have always loved this particular national holiday and growing up it usually meant some type of family get-together, even if it was to just watch a local fireworks display. Nowadays it is a bit quieter, but I still enjoy a good fireworks display either live or on television.

Although I find fireworks noisy, I like just being able to watch the skies light up with colors reminiscent of stained glass windows. In such displays, I am reminded of the grandeur of our God, who literally envelops us with His light and His love. And I find peace amidst the hoopla of the moment!

“Why can’t I find this peace in my daily life?” I ask myself after such moments. The answer that usually comes back to me is that I am racing around too much, whether mentally or physically. I fill up my days with appointments because I don’t want to be neglectful and I don’t want people thinking I live in an “ivory tower.” Also, I am no different than any other husband or father whose first obligation is to care for his wife and family; in my case, the Church of Syracuse.

Nevertheless, from my own dad and other father figures in my life, I know that downtime is needed and that everything can’t be all work, seven days a week. However the problem is, these days there are many occasions where we, as a society, have come to expect 24-hour service or availability. Those in the service sector are especially prone to feeling that they must meet such expectations or somehow they are missing the mark.

This coupled with the opposite side of the spectrum — those who feel no need to engage in a commitment to daily labor although of age and fit and able — further exacerbates an already stretched-thin workforce in many job areas. Just as an example, I am amazed at how many recreational facilities and restaurants have had to cut back regular hours and services due to a shortage of employees. The same can be said also of parish ministries and the lack of vocations to Church ministry, due in part to an unwillingness to invest oneself and expecting someone else to do it.

So what do we do to restore balance to our lives? Well, first I want to applaud those workplaces that are seeking to ensure that their workers have time for themselves and to be with their families. I see this especially in the number of places now closed on Sundays or in observance of holidays.

Second, I think it is important that, as a nation and a society, we promote the sanctity of human labor. As the Collect for the Votive Mass for the Sanctification of Human Labor states, “…grant that all men and women may find work that befits their dignity, joins them more closely to one another, and enables them to serve their neighbor.”

Third, we need to have a change of mindset concerning the idea of just “sliding by” in life, whether academically, spiritually, as employees, or as community members. A common complaint I have heard this year is how some persons expect everything just to be handed to them as if it is owed to them, without any effort on their part. In the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Mt 25:1-13), Jesus warns of the pitfalls of such an attitude and its accompanying behavior, including the admonition, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:12). Jesus follows up this parable with the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30) and its lesson about investing our talents or losing what little one may have.

As you and I call to mind our founding fathers and mothers, whose love and labor, toil and tribulation helped fashion the United States of America, as a nation we give thanks, but we ask also for the help needed, both divine and human, to continue to work for true justice and peace for all the peoples of the Earth. A hymn that many people are fond of states, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” Those sentiments summarize well the wellspring of such peace: (1) the fostering of our own inner peace; and (2) our joining more closely with one another in love of neighbor.

I pray that the days ahead will be ones in which all of us can rest in the Lord and “cast your [our] cares upon him because he cares for you [us]” (1 Pt 5:7). May such renewal of spirit then lead us to carry such peace to those we labor for and with on a daily basis!

“May God the Father who has called us to be one human family fill your hearts with deep longing for peace and harmony. Amen” (Independence Day Blessing).

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