Today is the feast of St. John of Avila, a sixteenth century Spanish diocesan priest who was declared a doctor of the church in 2012.
He is known for his close to connection to many Spanish saints of his age, including the Carmelite reformer and mystic Teresa of Avila, the Jesuit Francis Borgia, and John of God, the founder of an order that cares for the sick.
He was involved in education and wrote at least one major work on theology and mysticism. He was also a great preacher, known as the apostle of Andaluisa
He had come from a fairly rich family, of Jewish descent. After he was ordained he gave most of his wealth to the poor
But what struck me this morning as I read Richard McBrien’s Lives of the Saints was his arrest by the Inquisition in 1532.
What was his crime?
He had denounced the crimes of the rich and he was accused of unduly favoring the poor and excluding the rich from heaven.
He was found not guilty and released.
It strikes me that when someone speaks clearly about the dangers of wealth, that person is touching fire.
It is all too easy for people of faith to make broad condemnations of injustice. You can condemn corruption and injustice all you want, but unless you make clear what are the real instances of corruption and injustice around you, I think we might be missing the point.
We can “spiritualize” our commitment to justice – merely praying. Or we can make it real by our words and our lives.
When we do this we may earn the condemnation of the rich and powerful. But we have great examples of persons, like Saint John of Avila, who suffered for their commitment to God and to the poor.