In our first reading from Acts 2, Peter is preaching to a crowd, telling them to repent. At one point he says: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Peter could be preaching that exact same sentiment today. On Monday, April 24th, I knelt with other faith leaders in the rotunda of the senate office building and prayed. We were joined by several hundred faith leaders from Ecumenical Advocacy Days who circled us and joined us in our prayer. We were praying to protest the President’s proposed budget. We are hearing a great deal of chatter about how we need to cut spending, how we cannot afford programs like Meals on Wheels, how there is not enough money to protect the environment. There is talk about how we have to cut the deficit and how taxes are too high especially for the wealthy and corporations. Our leaders are looking at and talking as if our federal budget is an economic document, a balance sheet. The federal budget is not just an economic document; it is also a statement on the moral compass of our nation. As such, it should reflect our highest calling to take care of the most vulnerable and support a just, equitable society. The budget presented by President Trump has turned its back on that calling, as evidenced by the laundry list of programs and institutions being drained of resources in favor of expanding military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy.
After a few minutes of singing and praying we were arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail. In our second reading from 1 Peter it says: “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called.” I would not classify my 8 hours in jail as suffering but as an inconvenience. Yet at times, I complained about how long it was taking. We talk about finding Jesus through our suffering but most of us have a difficult time with being inconvenienced. How often have we complained if Sunday Mass goes beyond one hour, never thinking that Jesus suffered horrific pain and agony for three hours hanging on the cross? We talk about the power of the cross, but we spend our time worshiping at the foot of the cross rather than doing what Jesus did; pick up our cross. That would take some serious inconvenience, maybe even some suffering, so we worship instead. Worship does not require much from us.
It is our desire for convenience and our propensity to think only of our immediate needs that have perpetuated the destructive systems currently in place which are causing global-scale environmental degradation. As people of faith, we are called to challenge this paradigm; to recognize that we truly have been gifted with the role of caring for this one planet we have to call home and that, in order to do so, we must examine our actions, we must listen, and we must work to strengthen the voices of those who are not being heard.
The 13th century theologian and Franciscan, St. Bonaventure is credited with saying that how we choose and what we choose makes a difference – first, in what we become by our choices and second, in what the world becomes by our choices. This framework of faith is neither radical nor conservative: it simply places justice, dignity, compassion, and solidarity at the core of decision making. That is what our leaders should incorporate in their budget deliberations. In these extremely difficult times, we all need to rely on these principles.
FAN Executive Director
Pay attention this week to your impact on the environment. Start simply, maybe by counting the number of disposable containers you use. Think of a small way you can change your actions to better care for our common home, then implement that change in your life.
May all people of faith have the courage to stand up to violence, indignity and exclusivity, we pray…
May we all humbly thank our Lord Jesus for the inconvenient suffering he endured for our sakes, we pray…