Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 9, 2001
Easter is time to pay heed to Jesus' authority
On Easter we celebrate our belief that Christ has truly risen. This means that Christians acknowledge that Jesus was not a charlatan but the Son of God. As such he speaks with authority about issues we would rather not contemplate.
Jesus announces his mission by quoting Isaiah, thereby affirming that the prophets speak in the name of God.
Pope John Paul in his Jan. 10 general audience quoted these prophets to underline that Christians are mandated to "free the oppressed and make justice prevail."
"At the end of the life of every person," the pope reminds us, "and at the close of the history of humanity, the judgment of God will be based precisely on love, the practice of justice and assistance of the poor" (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Easter liturgy is rich in reminders of the ways in which God intervenes in human history to be at the side of the oppressed and the exploited.
But John Paul warns us in the words of Amos that "God turns his face from us, not accepting the rites, feasts, fasts, music and supplications, when a just man is sold for money outside the sanctuary, a poor man for a pair of sandals, and the head of the poor is trampled on like dust."
"The prophets," says Pope John Paul, "speaking in the name of God, refuse worship isolated in life, liturgy separated from justice, prayer detached from daily efforts and faith devoid of works."
"Paul," he continues, "reaches the point of calling for the suspension of Eucharistic participation, asking Christians to examine their own conscience first, so as not to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
And quoting John Chrysostom's admonishment he writes: "Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not neglect it outside where it suffers from cold and nakedness."
These are strong words, but part and parcel of a 2,000-year Christian history which culminated in the jubilee efforts to inspire society toward a higher ideal of solidarity as a remedy to the prevailing trend of privilege and abuse.
So, what is happening outside our houses of worship that we should be concerned about? In 1960, the world's wealthiest 20 per cent made 30 times more than the world's poorest 20 per cent. Today, they make 80 times more.
Official aid budgets as a percentage of GNP have been slashed drastically in Western countries since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Compared to a UN recommended minimum of 0.7 per cent of GNP, Canada only gives 0.25 per cent and the U.S. gives a ridiculous 0.1 per cent.
Almost 70 per cent of Canada's aid is tied aid, meaning that it has to benefit Canadian companies first, while giving the impression of assisting the poor. The distribution of U.S. aid is largely determined by support for "strategic national interest."
All this stands in pretty stark contrast to a Christian tradition we perhaps have only given lip service to.
Canada is hosting the Summit of the Americas later this month. Corporate and government power brokers of 34 countries will meet in Quebec City, behind a three-metre fence, to remove trade barriers, dismantle social programs, diminish democratic involvement to protect the common good and in general facilitate the ability of investors to maximize their profits.
Hopefully, this Easter, Christians will be inspired to examine not only their consciences but their unwitting complicity in the globalization of poverty.
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