Sunday, November 26, 2017

Whatsoever you do to the least of these...

My Sunday began by reading a bizarre Facebook rant posted on the page of a “sister Sue, I’m better than you” type of uber-pious Catholic.  The post ranted against the song, “(Feed theWorld) Do They Know It’s Christmas,” a 1984 charity effort to help relieve famine induced starvation in Ethiopia that year.

I have my own concerns about some of the song’s dreary, condescending lyrics but in general support the idea of using one’s gifts to help feed starving people.  However, the rant’s author felt giving to the poor and hungry is “socialism” and “not about Jesus in the least little bit,” and ended the rant by extolling US “values and freedoms” as the salvation of the world…the adoption of which would enable poor countries to, “save themselves” and thus, “wouldn’t need us to save them…”  Keep in mind, this rant was written by a self-proclaimed “good Christian” and posted on the page of another self-proclaimed “good Christian” someone who is quick to offer fraternal correction to anyone whose opinions, words or actions deviate from her view of morality.   I dare say the rant’s “let them eat cake” tone rivalled that of Marie Antoinette.

I found myself puzzling over the historical, political, and economic ignorance about Africa, Ethiopia and even the song itself conveyed in the rant.  I guess this person believes Ethiopia should have just held elections and voted for rain.  Oh, wait, they did move to a democratic government in 1991 yet still have an average annual per capita income of about $600 USD/year.  Anyway, those concerns were dwarfed by realizing blatant selfishness and nationalism currently pass for Christianity with some folks...too many folks.

Ironically, MT 25:41-45 was part of today’s gospel reading at Mass.  Please allow me to quote what I’m sure the aforementioned folks must consider to be socialist drivel from that gospel passage:
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed…. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

The homily I heard immediately following the reading of that gospel passage helped snap some puzzle pieces into place. Did the homily discuss the gospel reading?  Nah!  The gospel passage played second fiddle to promoting a diocesan evangelization campaign. 

At this point you might still be puzzled because to you, caring for the starving might tie in very nicely with evangelizing…walking the talk.  Allow me to share a bit about the diocesan campaign.  The campaign assumes that the people sitting in the pews are the “found” sheep in the flock and those not sitting in the pews are “lost.”  Perhaps the pews have special varnish that seeps virtue into one’s body by just sitting there because the object of the evangelization game is to get more buns in the pews.  The formula for doing so is to form your evangelization plan based upon answering the following questions contained in a handy brochure:

First you “Grow” in your own faith:
1. PRAY: When in your day will you commit to pray?
2. STUDY: What can you study, read and attend to learn about your faith this week?
3. ENGAGE: How can you become more involved in your parish?
4. SERVE: What can you volunteer to do this month to help those in need?

And then “Go” and evangelize those people who are obviously inferior to you because their bun is not in the pew every Sunday:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind someone in your life who is no longer coming to church. Write his/her name:
2. How will you pray for him/her?
3. How can you share your faith with him/her?
4. What could you invite him/her to?
5. How could you accompany him/her?

I continue to assert that some of the best followers of Jesus are people who did not “fall away” from the Catholic Church.  They fled at top speed as if exiting a burning building.  I also think some of the most lost souls I have met are bishops and priests as well as uber-pious laypeople.  Therefore, I do not limit my evangelization to people who do not attend Mass.  Rather, I think some of the people most in need of re-introduction to the gospel messages sit their happy asses in the pews on a pretty regular basis…sort of like this person braying like a donkey that feeding starving people is totally unrelated to Jesus.  Maybe she or the bishop will be my evangelization targets.

I also notice that in this magical evangelization formula, daily you are to pray.  Weekly you are to put your bun in the pew.  But just monthly do you need to worry about anyone needing assistance. 

For many hierarchy members, once per month would be an improvement over their current efforts to feed the poor.   Recall my former pastor is giving a new meaning to “orange is the new black…” having traded in his black clerics for an orange prison jumpsuit, serving a lengthy sentence for embezzling huge sums of parish money for his personal use…and we have another priest waiting in the wings for embezzlement trial for $5M USD.  But, I digress... In general, I raised my kids to help others on a daily if not perpetual basis...sort of always keep that radar up observing the situations of others so as to offer assistance in a sensitive way that preserves dignity…on the recipients’ schedules not on yours.

The formula also speaks of spiritual formation studies.  It has been my experience that it does not require a lot of prayer or studying theology to give someone a sandwich when they are hungry.  For example, I have provided financial assistance anonymously even to some of my worst critics when they have fallen upon hard financial times.  But, I do understand it might require extensive theological gymnastics to contort the gospel into a self-serving interpretation that justifies you not feeding the hungry.  If you intend to walk side by side with people in your respective spiritual journeys, judging not, lest ye be judged, it does not require a lot of theology study.  But, if you wish to assume a moral high ground...possibly whilst denying food to the hungry, that indeed requires extensive studying.   

It is clear the clergy, who need an audience to remain employed, promote a bias of spiritual superiority to those who merely sit in the pews even if exhibiting only little regard for people’s needs.  The clergy play to their audience.  It's easier to keep the uber-pious coming if they remain largely unchallenged and feel as though they wear a gold star of moral superiority upon their foreheads. It is my observation, that this is a case of clergy molding the laity into the same do-nothing-but-feel-superior-about-it crowd as themselves.

Thus, we logically arrive at a subset of people who claim superior mastery of Christianity over others yet overtly reject the gospel by not only turning their backs on starving people, but doing so with a flourish of self-righteous scorn, blaming the starving for their state of starvation.  I guess in their version of the gospel, it reads, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, you are right.  Do not buy into socialist propaganda and feed hungry people for they were hungry but they deserved a lecture on socio-political economics instead…”

I invite you to select your favorite lost-sheep clergy members and evangelize them.  But, don’t worry.  You needn’t insult them by giving them money lest they feel they are the recipient of socialist ill-gotten gains…receiving money from those who have more and giving it to priests who don’t have as much.  Just offer to help them once per month; maybe take them to an interesting lecture on dealing with abusive personalities or something