It is Tuesday and I am still thinking about Sunday’s Gospel. That’s not a bad thing, as we are supposed to be thinking of the Gospel if we follow Christ. Last Sunday we heard the Beatitudes from Luke. You might recall that about a week ago I wrote about Sister Dorothy Stang. She was reading aloud from the Beatitudes when she faced her killers, I always imagine how powerfully those words must have sounded as they took her life. By that, I mean how they sounded to them, she already knew what the words meant.
Anyway, post Beatitudes Gospel, my social media feed was flooded with posts putting down the rich. A wider search of friends and acquaintances bore opposite statements reflecting the notion of a “prosperity Gospel.” Ultimately, both stances leave me wanting. Well – the prosperity Gospel actually makes me want to scream and flee, because the idea of a God who “rewards” those who behave properly with material wealth is frankly anathema to me. The idea however that all those who have wealth are somehow disliked by God has plenty its own issues.
That’s why these words that I read in Give Us This Day struck me:
Blessed, fortunate, happy are you who are rich, rich in
money or power, in talent or time, because you can
do so much for the poor, can lift the yoke of the
oppressed. But blessed only if you have the mind of
the poor, the mind of Christ. – Walter Burghardt, SJ
Suddenly I was transported to October 2016. It was a tough day of a lot of walking on the Meseta, a long, long day on the Camino de Santiago. This was not the only day that was like this, but this particular moment stands out sharply in my memories of Camino.
It started out cold, so cold as the Meseta is on many autumn mornings. We stopped at a donativo for some coffee or hot chocolate, I can’t recall. What is a donativo? Along the Camino this means a place where you offer what you can for what you get. If you have money, you leave it, if you don’t have money, that is fine. You can see that without some people offering more, the donativo might not survive. This particular one was a woman offering hot beverages out of the hatch of her small car, a welcome sight as dawn broke, the absolute coldest moment of the day. We each put in some coins and enjoyed our steaming cups of whatever we had and then snapped a picture as the sun was coming up. A reminder of the shared joys of living. Emphasis – shared.
Later that day we stopped for lunch. Another element of Meseta walking is that you are wise to have purchased some food to carry with you; it is a long way between towns most days. We stopped at a public picnic area to enjoy our lunch. What a feast we had as four of us pooled and shared our food. Cheese, fruit, and a delicious red pepper that had bright skin that snapped with each bite as your mouth filled with its sweetness. Better yet, that pepper was dipped in hummus making it even more delightful as the savory mixed with the sweet. And speaking of sweet, the dates. How good they were! In fact, if you took a date and a small piece of manchego cheese and at them together, it tasted like heaven to me. There was bread, there is always bread in Spain, crusty and good, long loaves freshly baked when you buy them. It was one of the most delightful meals we enjoyed as we brought forth and shared our gifts. Did one of us have more or better food? Probably, but who knows or cares? Who remembers?
You see, I do not believe that wealth in and of itself is the problem. The problems come based upon what we do and do not have. As Burghardt said, and as I restate here, “Blessed, fortunate, happy are you who are rich, rich in money or power, in talent or time, because you can do so much for the poor, can lift the yoke of the oppressed. But blessed only if you have the mind of the poor, the mind of Christ.”
That is Eucharistic living.
What a mistake it is to further dichotomize an already divided and ever dividing world. Good/bad, poor/rich, socialist/capitalist, left/right, blue/red, and so on. If our constant focus is on what is wrong with the “other” than how are we ever healed? How are we ever one in Christ? Must I a drag out the Anne Lamott quote yet again? Sure, it would be great to be the one who has God figured out, but I’m pretty sure that if I believe I have it figured out or that I’m overall doing it right, I am probably not doing it right at all.
When we have whatever it is our gifts are – and for some that is material wealth, we can share that with others. If we are not materially wealthy, we can bring what we have to the table. However, the real trick there is getting invited to the table.
This week as we go through our daily life and activities, can we find ways to offer our gifts in ways we might not have before? Wealth or wisdom, we can share them, but only if we come together to do so. Now that sounds all warm and woo-hoo and nice, but it is not easily achieved. How we might break a barrier to do so is up to each of us.
We are all invited to be blessed and to share our collective gifts. How will we respond? What door will we open this week? What door will we walk through? What will we give?