MATERIAL LOSSES

Wednesday, 13th Week in Ordinary Time      

            “And when they saw him, they begged him to leave their district.”

            There is an Old Talmudic riddle that asks, “Why did the Tower of Babel crumble?” The answer is because the leaders of the project were more interested in the work than they were with the workers. When a brick would fall to the earth and break, the owners would be upset and bewail the loss of a brick. But when a worker fell to the earth out of exhaustion, they just ignored him and pressed someone else to the task. So, God destroyed the Tower of Babel not because they were trying to reach heaven, but because they were more interested in the bricks than the bricklayers.

            This is a good story for corporations that give more importance to their machines than their machine operators. This is also a good story for all people in positions of authority who put more value to their production than their producers, to their work than their workers.

            And this is a good commentary on today’s gospel reading. There is one revealing detail in the gospel story that we have to highlight: the reaction of the Gadarene population. The text says: “They begged him to leave their district.”

            Nil Guillemette considers this text as among the saddest in the whole Bible. Why? Because they betray the extreme pettiness of these people. The Gadarenes are more sensitive to the death of pigs than to the restoration to normalcy of two human beings who had been practically dehumanized by their condition – or reduced to the state of tortured animals. Instead of rejoicing because two men were healed, the people got angry at the loss of their pigs.

            Today’s gospel poses a challenging question, a disturbing commentary: Shall we continue to sacrifice human persons for material gain? How concerned are we about the welfare of others? Are we not sometimes more concerned about our profits than the benefits and welfare of our fellow humans? Are we not putting more premium on our material possessions than on the dignity and rights of our sisters and brothers?

            Again, how concerned are we about the welfare of others? To what extent do we let personal pleasures blind us to the more basic needs of our fellow human beings?

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