The National Catholic Review
The first and gospel readings need little explanation to be familiar to us. Scholars, though, remind us that in both cases the sinful and scandalous situation is beyond while still including the personal. Imperial aggression is expensive for the aggressed, and so 8th century kings organized the economy to pay tribute, as we may understand the rich man in the gospel to be doing as well. And then, certainly, we have local elites taking their cut of ivory beds and purple and linen garments as well. The OT prophets never say, "Look, Israel: The situation of squeezing the little guys to get more produce for Assyria is really not our fault, is beyond our control." No, Amos denounces it as though it were a situation of choice. Perhaps he didn’t know, or Jesus didn’t, about larger market forces. But likely they did, if in slightly different terms than we might analyze the situation. So we remain on the hook. We may feel utterly trapped in the tiniest percentile of richest people who ever trod the earth, may find it nearly impossible to extricate ourselves from the consuming maze in which we live. True. Or we may still hope that we don’t have a zero-sum game as the ancients assumed, where if someone has a lot, someone else falls short. But that case becomes more difficult to make. Two additional points: The wealthy are critiqued, in each instance, for lack of distress over what lies at their doorstep. And the two prophets who speak out are evidently free enough of the trap to be credible. My learning: I cannot solve the biggest level of the injustice problem but can look honestly at where I am, in fact, choosing to participate without fully counting the cost to other creatures. And resist. Barbara Green

Comments

Anonymous | 10/2/2007 - 10:52pm
Barbara, A few thoughts: Does learning help ignore the danger of riches. Or does it help us acknowledge this fact while resisting anyway, making knowledge truly dangerous? Maybe that is why Jesus spoke in stories. It's easier to get the point.