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Let us oppress the Just

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Friday, March 27

Readings: Wisdom 2:1, 12-22; Psalm 34, John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

"Let us oppress the needy just man. Let us neither spare the widow nor revere the old man for his hair grown white with time. But let our strength be our norm for justice." These verses from Wisdom 2 (10 and 11) are not in the lectionary readings for the day, but they are part of the thoughts being expressed. The just speak out against the evils of the day. Sometimes they frustrate the depredations of the wicked. For this, the wicked hate the just, and react with oppression.

John the Evangelist is setting the stage for the coming passion of the Lord. For the Church, this lectionary reading regarding the life of Jesus illustrates the words of Wisdom. Jesus, who is Justice incarnate, has spoken often against the wickedness of the ruling religious, political, and economic elites of his era. For this, the authorities are conspiring against him. But the people are more open, they wonder if indeed this is the Messiah.

What is it about this tendency of human societies to persecute and kill prophets? What prophets of our own era have we murdered -- are we in the process of murdering? What are the consequences to human societies that murder their prophets? What individual human actions contribute to climates that tolerate, even encourage, such activities? What individual human actions can protect and encourage prophets?

When we wear "name-brand clothing", made by corporations that exploit workers in poor countries, are we protecting prophets or participating in their destruction? When you look at (e.g.) Nike shoes or clothing articles, or Disney merchandise, do you see the women and children making 19 cents an hour, working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day -- or do you see some expensive and kewl and trendy clothing that you just gotta buy, 'cause after all, the guy up the street has one just like it and the company has these really kewl ads. . .

If you have children, do you educate them about such things, or do you actually buy them such name-brand merchandise and not tell them about the 19 cent an hour workers? If you own stock in such corporations, are you glad that some of your stock dividends result from the exploitation of the weak and powerless? Do you feel any responsibility, or do you hide behind the "corporate shield" and tell yourself, "It's none of my business, I'm just a stockholder. I just cash my dividend checks. I don't ask questions about where the money comes from."

Prayer intentions today:

+ For all people at risk of vicious economic exploitation, we pray to the Lord.

+ For the wicked who exploit the poor and powerless, which will include the management, board members, and stockholders of many "respectable" trans-national corporations, we pray to the Lord.

+ For those who are indifferent, and buy products made by exploited workers, we pray to the Lord.

Praxis today:

+ Stop buying "logo clothes" made by exploited foreign workers. Be more intentional in what you buy, who you buy it from, and what companies made the products. Ask questions.

+ If you own stock in corporations that exploit the poor and powerless, that pay unjust wages, that oppose worker organizing efforts, start praying about the morality of your investments.

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