Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Recently British economist Paul Collier published The Bottom Billion. The book reports that the poorest countries in the world lie almost exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. It also says that poverty there is not hopeless. Prosperous nations only take off their sunglasses and roll up their sleeves. “Take off their sunglasses” means that people rid themselves of prejudices blinding them to the causes of poverty in government corruption and internal conflict. “Roll up their sleeves” indicates that foreign countries can lend a hand in overcoming these problems.
Jesus addresses poverty in the beatitudes. As recounted in the Gospel of Luke, he proclaims the end of poverty with the coming of the Kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are poor,” he says, and, “Blessed are you who are now hungry.” We hear the beatitudes of Matthew in the gospel today. Like Luke’s, they announce the coming of the Kingdom. However, they are more concerned with agency of change than the end product. Jesus looks to his disciples as practitioners of righteousness, peacemakers, etc. to bring about the necessary reversals.
In his book Mr. Collier includes actions of righteousness and peacemaking. He suggests imposing international performance standards on governments to halt corruption. He also recommends military intervention when local militias persecute innocent people. Measures like these seem to compromise the Christian values of respecting local autonomy and, especially, of practicing non-violence. However, they also appear quite in line with the promise of the Kingdom.