First Thursday, June 7th, 2018
Reflection on the day’s readings and news
Psalm 37 asserts that “those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (v.9), “the meek shall inherit the land” (v.11), “those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land” (v.22), “the righteous shall inherit the land” (v.28). As Jesus himself said “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). All these words in Hebrew describe, not people of any special moral virtue, but those who have been exploited by the rich, whose resources and land have been stolen from them through debt and the refusal of society to grant them restitution. They “wait for the Lord”, not because they are pious, but because no-one else cares for them, and only in God can they find their strength. The Psalm promises that justice will be done for them.
In London the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire continues, a year after that terrible night when 71 people lost their lives, and many more their homes and possessions. That event showed very clearly how our society discards and despises some people, ignoring their voices and complaints, often blaming them for their own plight. We have repeatedly made a political choice for an economy which creates abundant wealth for many, but is content to leave others far behind. It has been a long time since the land (the only source of wealth in ancient times) was taken from the poor and given to those who, it was said, could “make better use of it”. Now the same principle is applied to every wealth-creating resource. Those with skills have secure employment- others struggle with the “gig economy”. Any talk of the need to fund welfare benefits or social housing is decried as undermining the efficiency of the economy. In such a political atmosphere Grenfell Tower was no occasional accident but an inevitable consequence of society’s deliberate choices.
So when will “the meek inherit the earth”? When will the poor have what is rightfully theirs? “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven” says Jesus (Luke 12:33, our New Testament reading for June 7th). Does he mean “wait until you die and go to heaven, then everything will be alright”? But his whole message is that heaven, God’s justice, the Reign of God’s love, is breaking into the world to challenge the powers of injustice and destruction that harm the life of society, families and individuals. So “bank” on that, place your “credit” and hope in the judgement of heaven
If there is a difference between the hopes of the Old Testament and the New (and the differences can be grossly exaggerated), it is that the Hebrew Scriptures imagine that God will step into history and instantly transform the world. The New Testament knows only the sacrificial love that was seen at the Cross can do that. It is precisely that powerful and challenging love which changes the world- including the kind of world that the people of Grenfell Tower suffered and experienced before, on and since June 14th last year.