Delivering the oppressed and the oppressor from the hand of oppression

Readings: Baruch 4, 5-12, 27-29 + Matthew 18, 1-5, 10

The Guardian Angels, First Saturday, 1999

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Nine days ago we began this series of meditations with an essay entitled, "Be not afraid!" This theme again sounds deeply in today's readings. Actions as we have noted have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are quite scary, tragic, and troubling. Yet even in the midst of those consequences, however, we hear the cry "Be not afraid! The Lord remains with you!"

See then the depth and the mystery of the love of God, who does not abandon us but who reaches out to deliver the oppressor AND the oppressed from the hand of oppression. In the case at hand, the rich who had oppressed the poor were removed by the conquering Babylonians from the ability to cause harm to the poor in Jerusalem. Those who had been powerful were now captive slaves, precariously dependent upon the goodwill of their powerful and cruel captors. Those who had been powerless were left in their homes in the land of their fathers and not carried into captivity.

You'd think the reverend fathers who compiled the lectionary would make their point and get on with it, but they seem to be wanting to make a point about this "actions have consequences" theme, as well as "those who break God's law and oppress the poor should take heed lest they fall." And sometimes, what a great fall it is. Next week the theme of accountability for the rich powerful continues, with readings in Jonah and Malachi, and as we shall see, it's not clear that the exiles having returned to Jerusalem have learned lots from the mistakes of their history.

Matthew's Gospel reminds us again that to enter the Kingdom requires child-like humility, and it is important to again recall that children in that era had no status at all. This is not a message we care to hear these days, as status is everything. People who don't have status get pushed around, exploited, killed, and treated with contempt by the "A List." That's the way it's always been, but we add insult to injury in this era by pretending that people aren't jerks based on their class/status relationship with others with whom they interact. This is especially true of political actions, where it is even more important for the successful functioning of the system that we pretend that war is peace and slavery is freedom -- and that the rich don't exploit the poor politically as well as economically.

Thoughts about orthopraxis: How do I personally benefit from the structures of sin that oppress the poor? Have I ever confessed my willing participation in, and benefit from, these structures during the sacrament of reconciliation? How would I have to change my life to stop benefitting from those structures of sin? What stops me from ending my participation in this structures of sin? Am I rationalizing my situation because of the benefits I receive from participation in oppression?

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