Good news for the rich

The experience of the church in Latin America has brought to the fore the preferential option for the poor which can be found in the scriptures, from the injunctions of the Torah to care for the widow and the orphan to the beatitudes where Jesus calls the poor blessed.

But what about the rest of us, the rich?

I include myself among them since I have much more than most of the people of the world and have access to more wealth and power than most of my neighbors here in Honduras.

Rose garden of the UCA, where the Jesuits' bodies were found, November 16, 1989

Rose garden of the UCA, where the Jesuits’ bodies were found, November 16, 1989

Father Juan Ramón Moreno was one of the Jesuits killed on this day in 1989 by members of the Salvadoran armed forces.

The Jesuits at the Central American University (UCA)in El Salvador had, like many Jesuits in Latin America and throughout the world, taken seriously the call to live out their lives in “the service of faith and the promotion of justice.” In El Salvador it meant being a university community that accompanied high intellectual standards with a critical eye on the situation of injustice in the country. Thus they could not avoid being a thorn in the side of the Salvadoran elite and the repressive government.

Father Juan Ramón Moreno – Pardito – was not one of the well-known martyrs of that night. But he had devoted his life to God and the poor and was the assistant director of the Oscar Romero Center at the UCA.

In an essay published in Jon Sobrino’s Companions of Jesus: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, he wrote about evangelization, being good news to the poor. In a section on the dilemma of the rich he wrote words that we who are not poor should take to heart:

“Basically the poor are impoverished due to hoarding and exploitation by the rich; and the rich are enriched at the cost of the impoverishment and misery of the masses. To free the poor by giving them access to living conditions consonant with their dignity as human beings and children of God entails sacrificing the privileges of wealthy oppressors. Hence, when faced with the news that the Kingdom of God is coming, the rich feel challenged and called to accept God’s justice and kindness, by allowing themselves to be re-created and changed by that justice into brothers and sisters, and persons in solidarity. ‘Be converted and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15). Only conversion, metanoia, change of mentality, new eyes in order to see reality with love in solidarity with which God sees it, can enable the approach of the Kingdom to ring out as good news in the ears of the rich — conversion to God who comes in gratuity and kindness to remake things, the God of the Kingdom.”

The good news for us who are rich is conversion, expressed in solidarity.

That is the best starting point in working for the Reign of God and being good news to the poor. And it is, I believe, one of the ways in which God saves us.

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