Pope Francis’ first important letter to the Church titled ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ echoes the words of Isaiah in our first reading; “ Is not this the fast I want, to lose the bonds of injustice, let the oppressed go free, share your bread with the hungry, cover the naked, bring the homeless poor into your home.’
Pope Francis tells it like it is when he writes, ‘today we have to say thou shalt not kill to an economy of exclusion and inequality for such an economy kills. The Holy Father wants us to have a deep and active concern for the plight of the poor who suffer so many injustices from an economy that puts profit above people.
He writes, “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”
This is especially true in the corporate world, where often benefits are cut, wages remain stagnant, workforces are slashed — putting more work on fewer people — and unions are suppressed.’
Not satisfied with these unjust cost-cutting measures, which produce profits for upper management executives and stockholders, corporate greed sinks even lower by often taking advantage of production facilities in poor nations where desperately impoverished people are ruthlessly exploited in corporate sponsored sweatshops.
“Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
In today’s gospel from Mark Jesus tells us that his followers, we who bear his name, are to make a difference in the societies in which we live. Jesus tells us ‘you are the salt of the Earth; you are the light of the world.’ In other words by following his teaching and example we are meant to give a special flavor to the way people treat other people, friend or stranger. By the way we live our lives we are to light up the lives of all those whose lives we touch.
Our world is in a bit of a mess, especially economically. As individuals we look at it and are convinced there’s nothing we can do to change it. But there is.
We can speak up and object when people put down the men and women of our First Nations claiming they are all drunks and lazy and we should stop giving them handouts. We can object when we hear sexist or racist remarks in a conversation. We can speak out or write letters to tell our government it does not speak for us when it cuts back on programs that help the poor, the homeless, the handicapped, our veterans, people trying to come to Canada. We can let our politicians know we don’t agree when they ignore environmental issues and end programs that seek to protect and enhance the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat.
We know we won’t be listened to. But we will have done something. We will have made our own little effort to give a different flavor, shed a different light of these issues and matters that affect all our lives.
As we continue this Mass we pray that we always be mindful of the men and women of this city, this country who find themselves in desperate straits because of unemployment, lack of housing, lack of opportunity of any other cause that robs them of their human dignity and reduces them to commodities to be used and then discarded. Life is not fair for so many people but if we commit ourselves to try to be salt and light we can in our own small way make a difference.