For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. (Phil. 3:18-21)
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. (Eph. 5: 3)
These selections from Paul contain powerful messages for peacemakers. I am beginning to get worried because Paul is starting to make sense to me. When I read the scriptures in terms of the â€œsocio-politicalâ€ message that has been hidden for so long, the words take on new meaning.
It started a few months ago when I was reading Ephesians. I noticed that Paul ranked greed right up there with immorality (porneia) and impurity. Greed is so much at the heart of what is taking our world in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, greed drives all of us. Somehow we are all complicit in the greed system of consumerism. We are afflicted with what Daniel Maguire calls â€œThe Imperial Comfort Syndrome.â€ Greed drives imperialism and militarism in support of the multinationals who are exploiting the earthâ€™s resources and the least among us for their own self-centered gain. We are amassing more and more while others have less and less.
Then, Paul makes the message even more explicit in Philippians. He even tells us with tears. He had seen the ravages of selfishness, greed and exploitation first hand. No wonder he cried just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The powers and principalities, the Evil Ones, those of us who are driven by greed are all enemies of the cross of Christ. Like Peter, we tell Jesus to forget Jerusalem. We want it all now. There will be no suffering except that which we inflict on others.
Our end is our destruction. I have long since abandoned the concept that God directly rewards the just and punishes the evil. Recompense for the Evil Ones is what goes around comes around. The evil we do will bring about our own destruction.
Our god is our belly. Go, Paul. Tell it like it is. The belly, self-centered greed drives us. Gospel valuesâ€”peace, justice, love, mercy and forgivenessâ€”are foreign to us even though we profess to be Christians. Endless profit and endless consumption are our goals.
We glory in our shameâ€”the oppression and destitution we have laid upon the least among us. Our glory, our prosperity, our ill-gotten gain, is really our shame. We exercise the preferential option for the rich at the expense of the poor. We forget the judgment scene. Did you feed the hungry? Did you give drink to the thirsty? Did you clothe the naked? Did you shelter the homeless? Did you give comfort and medicine to the sick? Did you visit the imprisoned? Did you declare a year of Jubilee and forgive the debt of the least among us?
Our minds are set on earthly things. We were taught that â€œfleshâ€ meant sexual immorality. It does but it also means much more. The flesh is all that is opposed to the cross of Christ. The flesh is when we set our minds on earthly things and earthly values.
We are citizens of heaven. Heaven is not a place. It is the reality of Godâ€™s presence to us here and now, day in and day out. We must abandon our greed and focus on the cross. We must focus on the foolishness of the cross. We become fools for Christâ€™s sake. Each November, many people think that those of us at the gates of Fort Benning and the School of the Americas are foolsâ€”misguided zealots who really do not understand the exigencies of the world and the war on terrorism. But our folly is wisdom. We must live by the cross. We must live for others. We must pour ourselves out for others. We must wash feet. The towel and basin are our tools.
We struggle to live the cross. We are called to be faithful. If we are to bring about change, we must be like the dishonest servant in the Gospel parable. We must be more prudent, wiser than the enemies of the cross.
On August 21, we remember Maryâ€™s apparition at Knock in Ireland. The vision consisted of Mary, Joseph and John the Evangelist. The focus was on the Lamb before a cross. Mary said not a word. The message should be clear to usâ€”it is all about Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the cross. He is the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb is our peace.
We hope that eventually Jesus will subject all things to his rule. Peace and justice shall embrace. The lion the lamb will lie together. Swords will be beat into plowshares. Spears will be melted into pruning hooks. Every tear will be wiped away. All things will be made new. What an awesome dream!