Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”
A few weeks before his betrayal, the Lord told Judas, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (Mt 26:11). Of course, the Lord knew what he was talking about.
When we think of the blind we immediately think of those who cannot see because their eyes do not work. What we hardly ever think of are the blind that have perfect vision but nonetheless have no faith, hope or love. That is, those who are intellectually, spiritually, compassionately or emotionally blind. We would be blind as well if we thought of them as being well.
The same holds true for the poor. When we think of the poor, we immediately think of underprivileged children in small African villages. We almost never think of poor over-privileged children in suburban America! Many Americans would be shocked to learn the number of children in suburban America who have nutritionists! You see, obesity is just as much of a killer as anorexia. And both are killing our children!
Why is it that we never think of them? How unfortunate! Our materially rich children are starving and dying for attention, affection, stability and security. Many Americans would be shocked to learn the number of children in suburban America who are being treated by psychologists. Moms and dads are being replaced more and more by coaches, teachers, therapists and psychologists.
We may not like to hear this, but many of us are, at the same time, both rich and poor, who belong to both the 99% and the 1%; that is, who are both sad and rich respectively!
I can only hope and pray that the poor underpriviledged children in small African villages are praying for us as we are praying for them.
Karl Marx knew nothing about faith and love, and I personally believe he knew very little about poverty or the distribution of wealth. When he claimed that religion [Christianity] was the opium of the masses he should have balanced his thoughts by also saying that atheism was the opium of the wicked. Religion keeps the mind from going nuts by keeping the heart from going cold. Atheism permits the mind to go nuts by keeping the heart extremely cold!
We must learn to balance all things as Christ balanced all things. How did he do it? By putting himself on the opposite side of sin! The Beatitudes are Christ’s balancing worksheet. He spoke of poverty, meekness and mourning like no other. He spoke of being blessed like no other. Christ’s miracles speak volumes when it comes to the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking and the lepers cleansed. He cures the rich and the poor; physical defects disappear alongside spiritual ones. Are we doing the same thing? Here are my most recent concerns.
Poverty of Faith. There is nothing new in saying that many people lack faith in over-developed America. But what is alarming is how even the religious who live and minister in over-developed America lack faith in their words and works. In last month’s issue of America (a Jesuit magazine), an editorial, written by a Jesuit, admonished our bishops for demanding too much when it came to the recent Health and Human Services mandate. I was stunned. How is it possible that an order in the Church that has done so much for the Church and has inspired so many in the Church, by the example of their martyrs, would call upon the bishops to lighten up! What would St. Edmund Campion be saying today? What would St. Isaac Jogues be saying to America’s comfortable editorial staff? I think I know.
Poverty of Honesty. It seems as though the current Administration has won women over to their side by shifting the argument of the HHS mandate to their side: from religious rights to women’s rights. And I am stunned that I have heard no one say the obvious. It is obvious that this issue has nothing to do with women’s rights. Why? Because the Church would be just as much against this mandate if its institutions were required to give men free contraceptives such as condoms. If anything, this issue has nothing to do with women’s rights. If anything, it has everything to do with catering to women rather than to men or to heath.
Poverty of Unity. We are very broken and mangled. We have eyes and do not see; ears that do not hear. Forgive me for saying this, but if there is anything good we can say about sin, it is the fact that it unites us all: We are all sinners! And although there is much good to say about grace, we can all with one voice say: We all need it! The devil would love to divide us so that we declare war on each other. And for this reason, we are constantly under attack from the left and the right who would love to put us into boxes: rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, citizens and aliens. Recently, and to the shame of many, a group of fans (parents and students) at a high school basketball game began to shout, “USA! USA! USA!” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless the opposing team is also from the USA. You see, the “opposing” team consisted predominately of Hispanic students. What to say? What would I say? If asked, I would invite all those who were shouting “USA” to look over the last names of our brave soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may be in for a nice surprise.