22 December 2016

Eat the Rich!


Today's Readings:

  • 1 Samuel 1:24-28
  • Luke 1:46-56

In the Douay, the RSV and the NABRE with other Mass texts.

Alleluia at Mass:
Rex gentium et lapis angularis Ecclesire: veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

The Antiphon at Vespers:
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

The Readings today are of Mary fulfilling the words of Samuel's mother, Anna, or Hannah. Mary's hymn (and Hannah's before her) is one of the most revolutionary of all scripture, it describes the political goals of many modern nations and political movements:
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui. Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles. Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes.
He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away. Luke 1:51-53
The problem arises, of course, when you forget the God who is talking here. Yes, the rich are hungry, and yes the proud are destroyed... but not in the same way that the Marxists would do it. A Christian Gospel doesn't destroy one or the other groups of people, nor is wealth a sin, per se. The Christian Gospel takes any human division - class, race, nations, sexes, and, in short, it makes both one, or facis utraque unum, as our verse says today.

See most secular politics plays on wins versus losses; haves versus have nots. Politics (modern, ancient, whatever) is a zero-sum game. I have one (whatever) and you do not. If you get the one (whatever) from me, then I do not have it any more. You have +1 and I have -1 and that equals 0. Christianity, however, is a no-sum game. The rich are sent away empty because they are hogging their wealth. In that wealth, in their materialism they are already empty. Yet the poor are empty in this same materialism. If they would offer it up to God, they would become, finally, free in their wealth and the Church would be the stronger because of it. The Mighty have a job to do and their conversion to Christ's Gospel doesn't demightify them. It makes them and their might, the rich and their wealth servants of God, brothers of the poor and the powerless.

St John Chrysostom shows us that there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" in the Gospel - no zero sums:
The sins of the rich, such as greed and selfishness, are obvious for all to see. The sins of the poor are less conspicuous, yet equally corrosive of the soul. Some poor people are tempted to envy the rich; indeed this is a form of vicarious greed, because the poor person wanting great wealth is in spirit no different from the rich person amassing great wealth. Many poor people are gripped by fear: their hearts are caught in a chain of anxiety, worrying whether they will have food on their plates tomorrow or clothes on their backs. Some poor people are constantly formulating in their minds devious plans to cheat the rich to obtain their Wealth; this is no different in spirit from the rich making plans to exploit the poor by paying low wages. The art of being poor is to trust in God for everything, to demand nothing-and to be grateful for all that is given.
(From here)
Mary's hymn is a repudiation of all the division that ruins our world, and also Christ's Church. Mary's hymn shows us that here, in the light of her Son, we are all sinners: and we are all working for salvation together. Your poverty and my wealth can divide us, or they can be used by us in God's service together to heal the world. In God's world there is no room for fights between classes of people - gay and straight, rich and poor, white and black, men and women, union labor and management, oppressor and oppressed, liberator and enslaver. There is only one class of people: those being redeemed. There is no lesser of two evils when speaking of two of God's fallen children.

If the rich come humbly before God, eventually they will be healed - just like everyone else. There is no room in the Gospel for insiders and outsiders, even though there are those who are running further away. God wants them, too.

All are made into one.

And Christ is our King.