The stern judgment of God upon politicians and corporations.

Wisdom 6, 1 - 11 + Luke 17, 11-19, St. Leo the Great

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Thus says Wisdom -- and the Church, by placing this reading in the lectionary for today's masses.

Those who have power must understand that it is not theirs to do with as they please, power is a responsibility, and those who use their power irresponsibly will eventually pay the price of their sin.

These are not words heard very loud in Washington, D.C., or in the other world capitals of governance, finance, business, and culture. We live in an era of radical selfish autonomy, where even the president fancies himself above law and morality.`

Even so, the judgment of God will come upon those who do wickedness "in high places" -- terribly and swiftly, and it will be stern. "Mene, mene, tekel, upharison" wrote the finger of God upon the banquet hall wall of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon -- "you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting." What do the balance scales of justice say about America the Merciless -- that great Democratic Republic whose people willingly choose leaders to implement policies that murder poor children in foreign lands? We cheerfully and enthusiastically do business with bankers who steal interest payments from the rice bowls of the poorest of the poor. Do Wisdom and Justice approve of our devotion to political corruption and the exploitation of the poor for financial and political gain? If the United States is indeed the land of We the People, who then are the rulers of this land that this condemnation comes upon? Is not one of the risks of democracy that We the People themselves will be held morally responsible for the crimes of their freely elected governing authorities?

I am reminded that the Catechism teaches us that we can gain responsibility for the sins of others by approving of those sins, praising them, not opposing them when it is within our power to do so, ordering them, covering up for them, or facilitating them. So when we willingly vote for a man or woman who commits oppression -- even though we know they are oppressors and exploiters and murderers of the poor -- where will we stand in that great accounting of those who hold and wield power?

Luke today tells us of ten lepers healed by Jesus. One of them turns back from the rush to be certified as "clean' to thank Jesus for this great miracle. Jesus notices that only one returned to give thanks, and as it so happens, the man was a Samaritan. So here we have two groups that were hated, feared, and marginalized in Jesus' culture: lepers and Samaritans (foreigners and heretics), and they are held up to the people of the era as good examples. Today we would probably tell a parable of 10 crack addicts and the one who turns back would be a prostitute. This parable is found only in Luke.

Today is the feast of Leo the Great, who died on November 10, 461. During his papacy, the Council of Chalcedon issued a primary theological definition on the human and divine natures of Christ. He persuaded Attila the Hun to not attack Rome in 452, but in 455 AD, he saw the conquest and sack of Rome by Genseric the Vandal. In religious art, he is often depicted with saints confronting Attila. Perhaps he would be a good saint to invoke during the crash of empires and the destruction of cities.

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