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20 Jul 2008

“…because [the Spirit] intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”  (Rom. 8:27b)

In the name …

An elderly woman walks into a big-city church. The friendly usher greets her at the door and helps her up the flight of steps, "Where would you like to sit?" he asks politely.  "The front row please," she answers.  "You really don't want to do that," the usher whispers, "The pastor is really boring."  "Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquires.  "No." he says.  "I'm the pastor's mother," she replies indignantly.  "Do you know who I am?" he asks.  "No." she says.  "Good," he answers, and rushes away down the aisle of the church.

With the economy in general decline, I wonder how many of our political and economic leaders would like to run and disappear too.  I started driving around the time of the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970’s.  I remember the lines at gas stations, and the rationing that allowed cars with even numbered license plates to get gas only on even numbered days, and cars with odd numbered license plates to fill-up only on odd numbered days.  Those 30 some years ago we decided to become less dependent on foreign oil.  Today we’re even more dependent than we were in the 1970’s.  MSNBC ran a report this past week that the 400 billion barrels of oil that Saudi Arabia and Iran have in their known reserves, if sold at the current $140, could buy the United States of America. 

On Sunday the Federal government had to take control of Indy Mac Bancorp.  Lines formed outside some of their offices.  People were trying to get their money out while they still could.  The stock price of General Motors fell to its lowest level in the past 50 years.  There’s even talk of that once mighty American automobile company filing for bankruptcy protection.  The government had to step in and protect the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because they almost went belly-up.  Over the weekend foreign countries had to call Washington and tell them to do something or the failures of those two corporations could have sent financial shock-waves all around the globe.  But they can’t put too much money out there because now there’s a fear of inflation again.  Fighting inflation and helping a struggling economy are conflicting efforts.  One financial expert on NPR said this is unchartered territory.  The experts are confused.

And what about the little guy?  What about the family that is worried about their variable-rate mortgage, their credit card debt at 16, 17 or 18% interest, their heating oil bill at $4.50 a gallon?  Wait until the floods in the Midwest, combined with the production of ethanol, hit the cost of food in the supermarkets.  What then?  Now a lot of families cannot save for college or retirement.  Whatever they make goes to paying today’s bills.  What about the scarcity of good-paying, secure jobs?  The largest employer in the United States is now Walmart, and a lot of those jobs are not sufficient to support a family.  A lot of people in this country of ours are confused and worried about the future.  This often has serious side-effects.  For one, it causes tension in marriages.  Money has always been one of the fundamental reasons behind divorce.  Families that are torn-apart make the economics even harder to deal with.  And what about the down-right desperate?  The middle-class in America are the people who support most of our charities.  The rich donate but a much smaller portion of their income than do people like us sitting here this morning.  What happens to the ones who depend on our charity when the middle class can no longer afford to give?  These are confusing times.

One of the responses to these difficult economic times has been a move by many people away from cash and credit, and toward a bartering system.  You do this for me, and I’ll pay you back by doing that.  It’s also led to a greater emphasis upon the local economy.  If you buy a local farmer’s produce, then he spends that money at the local mechanic, who then spends that money at a local store, and so on.  A person from Amherst told me back in the spring that his family had bought into a local farm.  They provide the money up front that the farmer needs to buy seed and fertilizer, and then he gets a portion of the produce throughout the growing season.  This idea of people helping other people is at the heart of the moral teachings of our faith.  Maybe the confusion caused by the erosion of an economy and lifestyle based on an excessive concern over money and stuff is giving way to a greater realization of our mutual dependence upon each other.  That might be the tinge of a silver-lining around the dark clouds of these confusing times.

And another possible benefit is that now due to our own self-interest we may actually take better care of our world.  Before we were asked to conserve because of the trees and the animals.  Now it’s because of us.  And sad but true, self-interest works better than altruism.  We’re more concerned about fuel-economy because a gallon of gas is over $4.  We recycle because towns charge by the bag at dumps and transfer stations.  More and more people are looking into alternative energy sources because we’re sick-and-tired of paying for oil, especially when we see the sun beating down on your roof on a bright, 90° day.  Bike sales have gone through the roof, which means people will be healthier.  Ever since Genesis, we have been charged by God as stewards of creation.  Maybe now we’ll realize that it’s in our own best interest to listen to God, finally. 

These are confusing times, and they may be for quite a while.  As it says today in the Bible, even when we don’t know what to do or even what to ask, God is there.  When words fail because of confusion, God is there.  When we don’t know what to ask, God is there.  Trust in that presence especially when there is little else to trust in. And when He calls us to community and conservation, let us listen and let us work with Him for our common good.  For this we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)


Fr. Randy Calvo


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