2017 – Cycle A
Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 27; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11
Have you ever considered your family budget an act of moral decision making?
Like our parish budget for the diocese, I expect many items are a given and you have no choice in including them. But have you ever figured out what is the percentage of each item within your budget? What percentage is spent on food, including dining out? What proportion of your budget is spent on your residence; rent, upkeep or mortgage payment? What percent is prayerfully and thoughtfully given to charity including our parish and the Bishop’s Appeal? …to entertainment? …to utilities? …toward retirement?
The diocese offers a pie chart in its publications for the Bishop’s Appeal. It is a simple and stark way to look at our priorities.
When monies are tight, what items take priority; what difficult choices are made to re-balance the budget?
Do our Catholic Christian values influence our decisions? The values of love of neighbor expressed in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, respect for the dignity of every human being, the value of work and that the economy should serve people, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and food to the hungry and global concerns for the environment.
Money is a necessary and morally neutral way of exchange. We enter into the realm of morality when we reflect on our attitude toward money. Are we greedy or generous? Are we controlled by money or are we in control of our finances. Do we live within our budgets or do we overspend? How many of our purchases occur because we have the ease of credit cards and easy access to make purchases on the internet? How much of this is geared toward the sin of gluttony of insatiable consumerism?
Our budgets and spending habits are based in our moral decision making. And though we may live within our budgets, what are our priorities?
This issue has come to the surface as I’ve have read about our nation’s proposed budget and the priorities being presented in it to us through Congress. All budgets are moral documents reflecting moral choices. And since many citizens tout that we are a nation based in Christian values. Does our national budget reflect Christian values?
The national budget proposes to cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, while increasing spending for the military and security. And though the military and national security are important, what are the values that are being used in prioritizing the various cuts and increases in this budget?
- I am very conscious of people suffering from mental illness. I regularly deal with them. What place is there for mental health in this budget?
- There are many military veterans who are homeless, suffering addictions, and mental illness with little or no help from the country they served. What place is there for them in this budget as we continue to send young women and men to war?
- In Oneonta a meal is offered 7 days a week through three meal sites. Saint Mary’s has the largest food pantry in the area among others. And yet some people believe there is not an issue of hunger in our country. What place is there for the hungry in this budget, many of whom are children?
- What place is there for seniors and families living on the edge of life, barely able to makes ends meet, that is, make their budgets? Their stories are regularly sent to me from Catholic Charities’ Caring Connections seeking financial assistance from 75 religious communities of our area. What might happen to the social safety net for many of our citizens?
Such questions and others need to be asked by all citizens.
The proposed national budget needs to be debated by our representatives and I would encourage each of us to not only closely observe the debate but to consider the values underpinning the debate. We Catholics bring a long and vast tradition of theology and scripture, reflection and action that addresses the basic needs of human beings based on the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Consider the values that underpinned the works of Dorothy Day, Saint Vincent DePaul and Saint Louise de Marillac, Saint Basil the Great, Bartolomé de las Casas, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis of Assisi, and the various religious orders and monasteries of our Catholic Church throughout the centuries that addressed the fraying of the social fabric and dignity of the human being. We can make a valuable contribution to the debate.
As we watch and reflect on the debate, remember budgets are moral documents. Therefore they are not primarily about numbers. Behind the numbers are people. How will our family budgets, our parish and diocesan budgets and our national budget help people so as to create a better society for all of us?
If we do not voice our Christian values in the public square, what values will be voiced and acted upon?