Homily for Easter 3A

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm

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.

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ great words,
as percussive and contemporary in theme as any rap lyric.

With ANZAC Day on Easter Monday,
if you had ventured into a supermarket on Holy Saturday,
you could have been forgiven for thinking
some great catastrophe was about to hit,
that larders needed to be well-stocked
for fear of coming hardship and horror,
rather than simply a day and a half
when you couldn’t pop out to get a frozen pizza.

Did people behave well?
It certainly wasn’t the best advert for our species I have seen.

The goodness and grandeur of so much of our common life,
this good earth and the other things we hold in common
is so often seared, and soiled, and spoiled with trade.

The labels, luxuries, fittings and fixtures
of the super-mega-discount-market-warehouses that so lure us
see us more and more, to quote Joni Mitchell
“pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Today’s harvest festival coincides with Fair Trade Fortnight.

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.

Since you could decide you liked the contents of your lunchbox
less than what the other children had,
trade happens.

Trade is the basis for civilisation,
for communities bigger than the extended family.
I feel I can say with some certainty
that God has, on general principles, no 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”.

Who is it Jesus comes to,
stranger on the road in our gospel this morning?
Who are the disheartened figures
trying to make sense of what they’ve seen and experienced?

Trade, like the Emmaus road, is about more
than simply getting stuff from point A to point B.

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.

Desperate workers produce daily hundreds
of big-name shoes or shirts,
garments they could never dream of affording
with the pittance they receive in wages.

The world’s poor stand at our side
whenever we wander round the supermarket
or the Warehouse.
Our own little journey to Emmaus.

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 Resurrection.

And we, we become unwilling collaborators,
ourselves entombed in the hollow house of consumerism.

The Easter story is about releasing all of us.

A fairer system of trade is one step on that Emmaus journey,
where we encounter the reality
of hope restored and life renewed.

A journey begun when we decide to care about what we buy.

When we support Fair Trade initiatives and products.
When we ask our shopkeepers, our companies and politicians
where the benefits from trade are going, and to whom.

The resurrection story proclaims our release
from the things that bind us and dehumanise.
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.

John Paul II was declared “blessed” this last week.
His staunch opposition to communism was noted, but
he was equally vocal in his rejection of unfettered Capitalism.

Ideology, financial systems, markets…
when they are put above the humanity Christ lived and died,
the people our Lord releases from bondage
and restores to fullness of life in these days of Easter…
such systems that only understand people
as commodities and consumers
are not part of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

The model of God in the stranger on the road to Emmaus is this:
he took their bread, blessed it,
broke it and gave it to back to them.
This is the model of the Eucharist,
the heart of our worship together.

In some ways it was nothing more than they deserved,
their own bread.

In this simple act his followers recognised the Risen Christ,
the face of their Lord in the stranger’s guise.

St Ambrose wrote in the fourth century, this:
It is not from your own possessions
that you are bestowing alms on the poor,
you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right.
For what was given to everyone for the use of all,
you have taken for your exclusive use.
The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone.
Thus, far from giving lavishly,
you are but paying part of your debt.

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.


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