Homily for Easter 5C (Fair Trade Fortnight)

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 at 9:00 am

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

The words of Gerald Manley Hopkins.

“Trade” is as old as human history.
Ever since people had more of one thing than was useful
and a need for something else, trade happens.

Fairly or unfairly,
between equals or at the point of a sword, trade happens.

Trade is the basis for civilisation,
and on general principles, I don’t think God has a problem with trade.

Again and again, though, we read in Scripture
that God does take issue with exploitation and economic injustice.

Such behaviour is a form of violence,
and violence has never been the way of Jesus,
who comes to “bring good news to the poor
and liberty for those who are oppressed”.

Jesus this morning gives us a summary and a completion of God’s law,
the new commandment,
“that you love one another as I have loved you”.

That we care for others as God cares for us.
That we offer the bounty of God’s grace,
grace we cannot earn or work for,
to one another.
And perhaps not just to those of our family, or our faith,
or our economic circle.

Should we not look with the eyes of God
on those whom we might never see face to face,
who make our clothes, who grow our food, who produce our tea and coffee?

Trade is about relationship,
and so is the command that we “love one another”.
And if hard-nosed commerce and consumerism,
the kind of mindset
that demands the lowest price whatever the cost to people and the planet,
if that is in opposition to that command,
then we have to change.

And we do have choices we can make in the marketplace.
What we buy and from whom.
What we value.
Whose “smudge and smell”, whose toil and soil we associate ourselves with.

To be true to the gospel, we need to relate with integrity and equity.
We need, simply put, to be “fair” in our dealings one with another.

As we are at present,
Fair Trade is not the dominant model for our relating to each other,
and large chunks of our economic lives
are built on a house of cards that compromises others and ourselves.

Rich countries offer subsidies to produce goods
which smother local industries.
Poor nations are forced to restructure their economies,
to farm cash crops on boom-and-bust cycles,
and to alienate land to global corporate interests.
Drugs that might keep millions living with AIDS alive
are patented to protect huge profits.
Scandalously overworked and undervalued workers
produce daily hundreds of big-name shoes or shirts,
garments they could never dream of affording with the pittance they receive.

The rules of international trade, and the conspiracy of the powerful
work to keep the poor just that, poor.
Trapped …in vulnerability, hardship and hopelessness.

That is not the story of the stone rolled away
from the front of an empty tomb,
the Easter story at the heart of our faith.

That story is about releasing all of us,
the world’s poor, the comfortable, the selfish,
everyone entombed in the hollow house of consumerism.

The resurrection story proclaims our liberation
from the things that bind and dehumanise us.
God in Jesus speaks, in life, in death, in life beyond death,
about a fullness, an abundance of life.
Not existence … by mere subsistence.
But life in all its grandeur and its glory.

On this day when we give thanks for the bounty of God’s good earth,
perhaps we might dare to invite God to open our eyes,
that we should see the generosity and interconnectedness
hard-wired into the very nature of Nature.

Let us pray:  O Lord Christ, who became poor that we might be rich,
deliver us from a comfortable conscience if we believe or intend
that others should be poor that we might be rich;
for in God’s economy, no one is expendable.
Grant us instead the riches of love. AMEN.


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