The Readings for Thursday 2 Advent (Year 2):
Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Egeni et pauperes quærunt aquas, et non sunt; lingua eorum siti aruit. Ego Dominus exaudiam eos, Deus Israël, non derelinquam eos.
The needy and the poor seek for waters, and there are none: their tongue hath been dry with thirst. I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I learned yesterday that the San Francisco SPCA, in addition to rescuing hundreds of animals and finding them good homes, has decided to use its charitable donations to purchase robots to roam its parking areas at night to keep the homeless out. The City has decided to fine them $1,000 a day for letting the robot roam about on public sidewalks and streets. Their parking areas are several sections of street parking: not private at all. And, at night, the area is quite deserted. The homeless encamp here now that The City does the massive sweeps to disturb all the tent cities that are about. The homeless logically get to a deserted area and encamp.
And so many of my fellow citizens are scared of the poor who might, you know, need place to sleep. So, logically, a place that cares for animals cannot be a place that cares for humans.
One of the most apocalyptic things in scripture is God’s love for the poor. God uses “the poor” as a sign for his chosen people as if to say, “I chose Israel, yes, but all these poor folks are Israel, even if they are not Jewish. God’s concern, God’s preferential option for the poor, is part of his woundedness over sin. Sin is our blight, and all our evils arise from it. But God is wounded because of it.
The thing that is most evil is the thing in us that allows us to hoard the resources God gave us to steward. Instead of saying “look, here’s some stuff God gave to humans” we say, “look, here’s my stuff.” And we’ve essentially built a culture that says, “if you don’t have the right stuff, you’re not really people.”
Into this, God says, “The poor… This sucks. I’m going to fix this.”
When God says, at the top of the reading,
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
That’s terrifying. When God says, “yeah, the poor need something…” he means “I’ll let them tear it all down to get it.” We are the mountains, we are the hills. We – in the first world – are doomed.
Unless we give it to them ourselves, freely, and in love.
We have no one who speaks for the poor. The American left wants to sterilize them. The American right wants to radicalize them and use them for political fodder. Both sides what them to shop, enslave themselves to fatty foods and credit cards, and play the fool in political actions. And we like them divided by color. We want them to think that some poor people are better off than others, even while we keep them all down.
The poor are scrambling just now, and when God takes them from being a worm to being a threshing sledge, we are going to be so messed up. But it is a sign now, that we are so messed up, that we buy robots to deal with them rather than deal with them face to face. We will take charitable donations and buy robots to deal with the poor, rather than using that same charity to hire the poor to work with animals.
I’ve never been homeless. I tend to feel poor most of the time, but that’s only because I don’t get paid enough to live like someone who codes for a living. But, to paraphrase my boss in the 80s, “I don’t care: when the revolution comes your ass is rich.” She said white. But rich is also true – as it will be for her as well. If you’re reading this on a cell phone that wasn’t given to you free at some booth on a street corner, you’re rich. If you own the computer you’re reading this on, you’re rich. The thing about poverty is there’s always someone with less money. Even at $0 I am also debt free.
So: what are we going to do this Advent about the poor?