Pepper and Salt

February 24, 2022
Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, both James and Jesus pepper us with some fire and brimstone.

James is preaching against the sin of exploitation, especially as it relates to economic justice, the sanctity of work, and reverence for the worker.

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries…
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

James 5: 1;4

James, in his time, is condemning a sin that has endured throughout history. In a 2020 address, Pope Francis confronted the same evil:

The pandemic has exposed and aggravated social problems, above all that of inequality…These symptoms of inequality reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy. And we must say it simply: the economy is sick. It has become ill. It is the fruit of unequal economic growth — this is the illness: the fruit of unequal economic growth — that disregards fundamental human values. In today’s world, a few wealthy people possess more than all the rest of humanity. I will repeat this so that it makes us think: a few wealthy people, a small group, possess more than all the rest of humanity. This is pure statistics. This is an injustice that cries out to heaven!

General Audience, August 26, 2020

James and Francis – speaking the same message for different times.

In our Gospel, Jesus teaches that the rewards of a well-lived life are measured in mutuality and generosity, not dollars:

In concluding his above referenced address, Pope Francis, like Jesus, focused on children:

Let us think about the children. Read the statistics: how many children today are dying of hunger because of broken distribution of riches, because of a sick economic system; and how many children today do not have the right to education for the same reason. May this image of children in want due to hunger and the lack of education help us understand that after this pandemic crisis we must learn and do better.

Jesus too measured a soul’s health by its effect on children:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,  it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

These readings teach hard lessons, lessons which society still seems unable to learn. Let’s ask for the grace to see our own role in helping to realize the sacred balance of goods that Jesus, James, and Francis call for.

Let us not tire in advocating for social Justice because, as our Gospel warns:

Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good,
but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?

Mark 9:49

Poetry and Music: Salt of the Earth – The Rolling Stones
In this song, Mick Jagger writes an anthem to the working class. But in a twice-repeated stanza, the singer professes a distance from this very group, perhaps loosing touch because of his own material success:

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grey and black and white
They don’t look real to meIn fact, they look so strange

The song uses a quote that refers to a passage in the Bible where Jesus encourages people to give the best of themselves:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned ? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matthew 5:13

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