Our Western culture, maintained by capitalism and a military establishment meant to protect it, thrives on myth of self-sufficiency.
We preach to our children the importance of winning, career advancement, wealth, conformity, status, power and possessions.
Few dare to critique these mainstream values. Those that do, the outliers, like Dorothy Day or Pope Francis, face serious blow back.
When our American values lead to harm, denial strengthens and resistance to change sharpens. Thus, as climate change triggers storms, fires, floods, and drought, the call to action is all but ignored. We continue to burn fossil fuels in our cars, trucks, planes, generating plants, HVAC systems, factories and offices as if this poison is harmless. The plea for renewable energies receives tepid responses.
The consequence, as predicted by the best scientists, is planet earth heating up, promising the demise of thousands of animal and plant species, our food systems, and communities. The poor among us are the first and chief victims.
In the geo-political world, our consumer society continues to develop sophisticated weapons, to the profit of the arms industry and the satisfaction of political elites and military brass who worship military defense as a way to maintain our “American Way of Life.”
Will our descendants a hundred years from now look back on this time in human history and ask, “What were they thinking?”
Today’s three readings speak to our time. They are harsh readings. In the first one, the secretary to the great prophet Jeremiah, the author of the book of Baruch, bluntly states, “We did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked heart, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”
Jesus minces no words either by calling out various communities around him for not heeding his message. “Woe to you!” he cries to the people his disciples will meet on their first missionary excursion. These people remained self-focused, complacent, stuck in a rut of routine, unexamined daily living. Jesus, however, wants a total conversion of heart now. Nothing less. To the people of Capernaum he asks, “Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the nether world.”
As the chief follower of this outlier Jesus, Pope Francis, today’s most notable prophet, pleads with all of humanity to live simply, build bridges with our neighbors, share our wealth, welcome the refugees and immigrants, disarm, stop killing planet earth, not judge one another, forgive, provide food, water, healthcare, education and housing for everyone.
Am I indifferent to Baruch’s, Jesus’ and the pope’s calls to conversion? What is God calling me to do this day to reach out to a neighbor, take a stand against bigoty, act to protect the planet, critique our nation’s military dominance, and welcome the frightened, lonely, different and angry?
In deep prayer, alone with God, we seek the answers to these questions, closing with words from today’s psalm, “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God, our savior, because of the glory of your name; deliver us and pardon our sins.”
Our personal conversion begins anew.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.