Summary: "We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market."

Thursday of Second Week in Course 2017

Joy of the Gospel

Mark’s Gospel, which tradition holds is the second one written after Matthew, seems to be a short life of Christ appended to an account of His passion and resurrection. Miracles such as the ones we hear about today occupy a large part of this Gospel. Jesus came to save us, spirit, soul and body. Even touching Christ caused power to come from Him, healing every part of the human person. Christ continues to heal today. That is, after all, why we are here–to hear the word of God and to let Him heal us, always in our spirits and minds, and even sometimes in our bodies. But Jesus doesn’t just intend to heal individuals. He wants to heal communities and cultures. He wants our institutions, even our economic institutions, to be places of justice, love and peace.

You may recall that the Holy Father, in the encyclical the Joy of the Gospel, which we have been meditating on for nearly three years, set about discussing our relationship with the poor. Now he wants to talk about healing economies, making them responsive to the needs of the poor. This may cause some to flinch a little, but the Pope is acting as a prophet here. The role of the prophet is twofold, “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the too comfortable.”

‘The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

‘The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference in made to protecting labor and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice. At other times these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them. Casual indifference in the face of such questions empties our lives and our words of all meaning. Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.

‘We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.’

Just a comment on a solution that solves almost nothing–raising the legal minimum wage. I think my first job paid like 75 cents an hour. My current professional job pays a whole lot more, because I have more education and more experience. In both situations I got what I needed and need, and the employer does as well. In those places where the minimum wage is now $15 an hour, a teenager has a huge problem getting a job, because he or she has no experience and is not economically worth $15 an hour. So the business closes or buys robots to do the menial work.

I believe the longer term solution has to do with changing hearts of both employers and those who represent employees. Profit-sharing, really instituted, is a partial solution, but the Church has no business imposing specific solutions. That is going to be a joint venture, and it will be easier if everyone involved considers his first boss to be Jesus Christ.

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