Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11
Matthew 17:9a, 10-13
We live in a society that
worships fame and wealth. Perhaps the
words of the first reading could be amended to: "How awesome are you, Warren
Buffett, in your wondrous deeds! Whose
glory is equal to yours?" Insert any of the 50 wealthiest people of the world,
or the top movie stars, or the most famous and/or beautiful personalities, and
let the adulation begin. We long to be in their shoes, or at least in their
Unfortunately, I have encountered
far too many people (both in person and in the news) who hold fast to a sense
of entitlement about their wealth – a sense that money, possessions, and
privileges are mine solely because I earned them, and I am therefore entitled
to keep them for myself. I own them, I
control them, and if you want them, then you should work hard and earn them,
Please do not think I am
condemning the rich. Many people of
great wealth are humble, generous, and grateful for the abundance they have
been given. I am calling into question the attitude
that people have more because they "deserve" it, and they have no
responsibility for those who have less. I protest the attitude that we should protect
the wealthiest people, corporations, and investment firms, but let the poor
fend for themselves. I protest the attitude that financial gurus "deserve"
million-dollar bonuses while the working poor who often labor for longer hours
in far worse conditions cannot earn enough to put sufficient food on the table.
I am scandalized that some in our country
believe it is better to allow people without health insurance to die in the
emergency room, branding them as less deserving than the certainly smarter,
more virtuous, and harder-working folk who have insurance.
In our public sphere and
especially in our politics today, where is the sense of "common good" the
Catholic Church professes to believe?
Where is the gospel challenge to care for the least of these? And where are our voices? Have we abandoned our responsibilities to those
political pundits and powers who profess to be Christian but whose positions,
actions, and strategies contradict the message of Jesus?
I shame-facedly confess that
I have not been vocal and active, in part because my own family is weathering
the storm in decent shape and the issues of joblessness, hunger, foreclosure,
and desperation have not directly impacted me. I have increased my donations to
food pantries and non-profit organizations that try so hard to provide a safety
net, but I need to do more. We all do.
One "think tank" has secured
pledges from every Republican that no matter what happens they will never vote
to raise anyone’s taxes. What if we fought and worked just as hard to get pledges
that committed the signers to work for the common good, or to decrease the
levels of poverty in our country, or even simply to leave partisan politics
behind in order to enact legislation that is truly good for the whole of the
American people? In fact, what if we
made that pledge ourselves?
If we are to call ourselves
followers of Jesus Christ, we need to do more than sit back and watch as the
rich get richer and the poor die of starvation. The psalmist today cries out
"Lord, make us turn to you." Does God
have to "make us" turn our faces to the gospel? I pledge today to do more. Will
Amy Florian is a teacher
and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with
the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.