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Friday, November 19, 2010

From Both Sides Now!

If seen both sides of the helping the poor.  When I was quite young and just out of my parents home I had a brief period of counter cultural poverty, living on Vitamin C etc. Later I was a social activist, first organizing tenants  and later low income workers.  During long period of my adulthood, until I was 43, I did not adhere to my childhood faith, and did not see what the Catholic Church had to offer the poor.  I relied on materialist philosophers like Marx to guide me.

At 43 I decided to return to my faith and I left California to go back to my childhood home of Seattle.  I believed, correctly, that the place I was raised could serve to nurture my return to faith.  I sought restoration of relations with family members and with familiar places, and the intellectual life of what had always been a great city. I found a Dominican run parish were preaching of truth fit my intellectual temperament.

 Later I realized that even if a materialist philosopher describes the problem well, and even if they are right sometimes, they never deal with the problem of sin and death.  If we read the Epistle of St. James we find that the problems of wealth and poverty are precisely problems of sin and death.  St James warns the wealth that there wealth corrodes and they will be punished for how poorly they have paid the field hands.  Then he warns the poor not to get bitter and to hope in heaven.  He never tells either of them not to seek justice in this life though.  For St. James our moral actions have serious consequences, and our faith is judged by them.

Last week I pondered this and pondered that once again I have hit a low point  I I stood waiting in a food line at Blessed Sacraments food bank.  As I went  and got some groceries, I said hello to the parish volunteers I knew so well.  I had on many occasions helped the St. Vincent De Paul program feed people through a Sunday meal program, just as I had also helped at the Family Kitchen as the Cathedral Kitchen was known when the Catholic Workers ran it.

I thought about how now I am on the other side of the food line.  How none of us are completely safe and secure at any point in their life. At any point we can lose our jobs, our homes, our health.  I have heard it said that the average American is only 3 meals away from being hungry.  That's a bit of hyperbole and maybe irony, since in this country many of us have eaten three meals more than we should have recently. But still it points to the fact that our security is an illusion.

As I went out of the parish hall were the food bank was held, someone who new me from the morning preparation of the Sunday meals saw me and said , "Hey, when are you going to come back and help us on Sunday mornings?"

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