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Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:53

Towards generous solidarity and sharing our wealth with the poor

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Each of us is called to weigh our own attitude to money, resources and power, writes CRA President Sister Annette Cunliffe rsc. How committed are we to people who are in real need, such as refugees, people sleeping on the streets, or those trying to stretch the weekly income to cover food and clothing for their children?

In this time, between Easter and Pentecost, the readings at Mass explore the story of the early Church. One early example is that of the sharing of resources so that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34).

Yet, in New South Wales and now at the National level, we are hearing almost daily of quite shocking abuses of money as a means to election, with the power then gained being already corrupted by the need to return “favours” to those who have supported those elected. Those with few resources, those in real need are therefore all too likely to suffer further through policies or decisions that favour those with means.

Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (#56-57), speaks of his awareness of this type of corruption, based on the “idolatry of money”:

In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.

He concludes this section by asking political leaders to consider the saying: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”. Further he states (in #58):

Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

The Australian Catholic Bishops echoed the Pope’s call in their recent pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, entitled Putting People First: The call for an economy of social inclusion.

We need to hold our elected civil leaders to account, yet that is not enough. Each of us is called to weigh our own attitude to money, resources and power. How wasteful are we? How aware of the environmental impact of our actions? How committed to people who are in real need? How willing to share – our country, our resources, our time – with such people?

As I write I am conscious of people like asylum seekers denied access to our country or to reasonable care, people sleeping on the streets, or in a hidden way trying to stretch the weekly income to cover food and clothing for their children, while I really lack for nothing. I will definitely ponder the saying “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood.”