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Monday, July 4, 2016

Loving Our Neighbor

..the least of these brothers 
and sisters of mine Matt. 25:40
This past Sunday our deacon, ordinarily a very good homilist,  gave a sermon focused, on the words of St. Paul from his letter to the Galatians, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  The sermon was going well until he said something about  simply writing a check not being good enough and what a shame it is that more of us don't sign up to make sandwiches for the poor. 
At that point, he lost me, because I sensed a political agenda that I've long held in suspicion.  I never heard this "sandwich thing" before we moved to Virginia where I saw it listed in my parish bulletin.  
I was looking  for volunteer opportunities  and I considered this activity briefly, but I just couldn't justify commuting from the Virginia suburbs to Washington, D.C. to make someone a sandwich.  Then and there, I believed it would make more sense for me to write a check that would pay for the bread, LOTS OF BREAD.   It did not seem reasonable to me and I wondered who would think it was.  If it had been an emergency situation, say after a disaster of some kind, or to fill a need that followed an event where others needed to be fed, I would have signed up without hesitation, having been a volunteer in my community and my parishes my entire adult life.  

It wasn't until years later that I figured out this is part of what is best known as "Social Justice Ministries."  The same people, and there are many of them, who would advocate this "sandwich making" on an ongoing basis, year after year, are the very ones who are quick to denigrate capitalism every chance they get, never mind that it is the only economic system ever tried to have lifted millions  of people out of poverty. 
Ludwig von Mises, the highly regarded Austrian economist, in his essay, "The Anti-Capitalist Mentality" said,
There exists today a sham anticommunist front.  What these people who call themselves "anticommunist liberals" and whom sober men more correctly call "anti-anticommunists" are aiming at is communism without those inherent and necessary features of communism which are still unpalatable to Americans.  They make an illusory distinction between communism and socialism and ---paradoxically enough---look for a support of their recommendation of noncommunist socialism to the document which its authors called The Communist Manifesto.  They think they have proved their case by employing such aliases for socialism as planning or the welfare state. 
I was on the Metro train one morning about a year ago and in front of me sat a young professional woman who was nicely dressed.  I imagined  she was on her way to a job in an office somewhere in the city.   When the train arrived at her stop, she rose from her seat and took a brown bag lunch out of her tote bag.   As she approached the door of the train car, she placed the bag beside a pitifully dressed black man who was hunched over and asleep in his seat.   I never saw her again.  The man never saw her at all.  This to me is how sandwich giving should be done, not with banners and teams of organized participants  promoting "justice" which can only mean they believe some "injustice" has been done in the first place. 
I was thinking recently about what exactly perpetuates poverty, that state of mankind which will "always be with us."  I look at photos of Cuba today compared to photos of it before it was taken over by the revolutionaries  who stirred up support by promoting  "power to the people".   Once the bureaucrats, which is all they are,  paid themselves, there was little left to spend on the little people, and absolutely none was left to preserve and maintain what had been previously built by others.  The central planners have no plan for how to replenish the wealth they steal and eventually, as we know, "they run out of other people's money." Their liberal run countries and states and cities fail again and again.  Their welfare plans therefore are not the answer to poverty or any real solution at all for the woes of the poor. 
Matthew 16:24 says, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  The CCC, Catechism of the Catholic  Church, #2015 says, "The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross.  There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.  Spiritual progress entails the ascesis (severe self discipline) and mortification that gradually leads to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes."  (emphasis added)
The more we seek instant gratification, the less we are willing to deny ourselves.  The more we indulge our passions, the less we believe that we even should deny ourselves.  The more we embrace what we can't afford, the farther away we move from self denial and the closer we get to our own physical and spiritual destruction.   Prudent self denial, on the other hand, is what very often keeps us out of serious life threatening trouble. 
Commercial advertising and political propaganda is geared to promote "a belief"  that people "deserve things."  In reality, we are deserving of very little, and we have forgotten that what we do have is a gift from God and not some rightful share of the bounties of nature.   
We can "love our neighbor as our self" in many ways, discretely and in public.  However we choose to do it should always be from our heart and for the glory of God and not to advance a political system.  In his book, "The Great Transformation," Ted Flynn writes:
The first three commandments are vertical:  man's relationship to God alone.  The remaining seven are horizontal, or man's relationship to each other.  The promulgation of the social justice gospel badly distorts this and minimizes the first three commandments, concentrating on the remaining seven inordinately to the detriment of what God ordained from the very beginning of time.  The social  gospel group feels the Sermon on the Mount is the modern day version of the Ten Commandments, which they say has replaced the Ten Commandments.  There are religious orders in the Church that have focused so heavily on this social gospel, they have become a blur with no salt to believers.  Vocations are drying up in those orders.  Their theology has no black and white---no absolute truths.  The social gospel of service is very important and should be an outgrowth of the changes taking place in our heart as a result of conversion.  Often when the social gospel is introduced, all doctrinal structures take a back seat as do the sacraments, to a "feel good meeting" where anything goes.  ............. There is a direct correlation to the disconnect we see in society to this principle, as it has caused enormous unbelief and confusion in the pews.  Saint Paul said, "thinking themselves wise, they became foolish" (Romans 1:22).  (my own emphasis added)

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