Thursday, February 27, 2014

“The tighter you squeeze, the less you have”

"He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have." - Socrates

Scripture Text: (JAS 5:1-6)
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.

The words of St James in the reading above are harsh. The gold coveted by the rich will consume them. Their zeal for luxury murders the poor. Hearts grown fat with comfort will face the day of slaughter. The wages robbed from workers weep. The psalmist today at Mass warns that those who trust in folly will never see the light.

“Rabble rousers” like St James are rarely heard today. They would be labeled extremists and ignored. With everyone needing access to money, being rich and powerful has lost its taint. Just look at the names embedded in buildings, arenas, schools, operas, films, parks, museums, concerts, and libraries. Students race down the court with corporate logos flying from their uniforms, and they work out under donors’ names. Maybe the dollar proclaims “in God we trust,” but the song might be right: “money makes the world go round.” Only churches and children still are named after saints.

How do we recover the sharp edge of Scripture in a world like ours? The works of mercy rouse us to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. The coat drive leaves us feeling warm. But the works of justice are a tougher sell. The struggles for fair wages or immigration reform take time; groups clash and compromise gets ridiculed.

So why does St James use such strong language? Because he wants to jolt us into getting the message: Greed is a sin and it is deadly. It separates us from the love and life God offers us. Take action! Jesus stands ready to help us see and do the next thing that will bring us closer to him. Let’s do it!

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