Thursday, September 24, 2015

To What Extent are We "Unjustly Rich"?

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the second reading will be from James 5:1-6.

These are hard words to hear, if you’re the sort of person who has the resources to read this blog, right? In fact, internationally speaking, if you have internet access, you are in the top 3-5%. So you and me - we’re unquestionably “rich”.

In this passage, James preaches against the unjustly rich. The ones who do things like cheat their employees.

This lead me to ask of myself: to what extent am I “unjustly rich”?

I mean, most of us don’t think of ourselves as even being particularly rich - since we live in the most affluent society in the world. It’s easy to forget how rich we are when we’re so busy comparing ourselves with the Oliver Queens, Bruce Waynes, and Tony Starks of the world.

So, to what extent do we support unjust economic systems and circumstances in the ways we spend our money?

Buy from companies that we know have unjust practices?

Do we even know how often you benefit from the suffering of others?

God laid rather a lot on my heart, as I looked around.

Rather than canvasing my house to see how many things were made in China, I just checked the tags on what I happened to be wearing that day. The best I could claim was that my top was made in Egypt.

I found myself wondering if it was even possible to do business in this country without benefiting in some way from the sufferings of others.

I mean - you try to do something like buy  cloth diapers so you don’t poison the environment with disposables (which are estimated to take something like 1,000 years to decompose), and sure enough the cloth ones that you can afford are made in a sweatshop somewhere in China. So, you decide to make your own so you don’t pay into that economic system, and naturally, where is the fabric manufactured? Guatamala or Honduras, right?

So… what can we do about this?

The obvious solution are to (1) avoid buying things from the countries known to have problems, (2) give to charities that work in those areas, and (3) Pray.

In some ways, the hardest thing to do is to avoid purchasing ALL things that might have been manufactured under unethical conditions; doing that requires a LOT of research. I’d suggest prioritizing the other two, and avoiding purchases when they “jump out at you”, so to speak.

Here are a couple of Catholic mission groups that I know of who work in developing countries,

One Family in Missions

Operation Rice Bowl

If anyone has suggestions for others, I’ll be pleased to research them and possibly add them to the list. I am woefully ignorant about such things.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus,
Forgive us for all of the ways in which we have been indifferent to the sufferings of others, and forgive us for the times that we have taken advantage of others’ weakness to get ahead, even if we didn’t do it on purpose. Help us to seek to raise up those who are taken advantage  of and to know what is your will for us in getting justice for these people.


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