It’s no secret that countries around the world are currently experiencing an economic crisis of epic proportions. While experts assure us that our unemployment rate is going down, many Americans work long hours with few, if any, benefits. College students graduate with staggering loan debt and no guarantee of work in their field as they enter a continually shrinking job market. Many small businesses fail and the number of mortgage foreclosures continues to rise while some CEOs of major corporations receive large bonuses and pay little or nothing in corporate income taxes.
Our country remains embroiled in wars and conflicts with no promise of victory on the horizon; out-of-control forest fires, unstable weather patterns and melting sea ice threaten the environment and destroy the lives and livelihood of thousands; homes are lost to fire and flood. Here at home and in countries around the world there are people trying desperately to recover from earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. How do we reach out to people in countries in Africa where the stench of genocide still hangs in the air? To people living in tent cities and on garbage dumps with no clean water or sanitation? How do we reach out to countries that need our help when we know that there is a legitimate concern that such aid may simply serve to support corrupt politicians?
A fisherman in New Orleans wants the same things for his family as a farmer in Rwanda; a soldier’s widow in Iraq has the same concerns for her children as a coal miner’s widow in West Virginia. Each asks for a fish. And yet, often we are tempted to hand them a snake. People caught in an unprecedented economic downtown ask for an egg. Do we give them a scorpion? “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus taught us to say these words, but these words do not belong to us. Others also pray these words. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters.” These are difficult times and difficult questions. There are no easy answers. But we must at least get up and open the door.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.