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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, July 18, 2015
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After Pope Francis released his encyclical, “Laudato Si”, reporters interviewed US presidential candidates who are Catholics. One said that the Pope cannot dictate on him while the other belittled the encyclical by saying the Pope is not an expert on the environment. Another replied that he is a Catholic but will not be influenced by the Pope. Other nations, particularly the poor and developed nations hailed the encyclical.

These candidates are distancing from the Pope because the encyclical is harsh in its criticism of the unbridled profit taking that is the basic tenet of capitalism. While the Pope did not attack capitalism per se since this economic system has also created and spread out wealth, nevertheless his comments strikes at the heart of the US election kitty as the main financiers of the Republicans big business.

The rejection by big business of the call of the Holy Father for economic equality and the importance of man who should be at the center of development is nothing new. Wise and prophetic words had always been rejected by the powerful. But the Pope, like the prophet of old is reminding us of the results of inequality. The crisis that now plagues the world and the diseases arising from abuse are results of man's refusal to heed the words of the prophets. Indeed, as the Catholic Church teaches, all of us are prophets by word or action a witnessing to the world.

Prophets, people who remind us of our failures and abuses, are mostly unwelcome. Russian novelist, Fedor Dostoevsky wrote in his classic, “The Brothers Karamasov” that “men reject the prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain.” Indeed people do listen to the words of the prophet only to realize at the end the folly of not listening to them and after the prophets are gone.

Last Sunday's First Reading from the Book of Amos tells of how the Jews rejected Amos for chastising them for their sins that have angered God. Instead of listening, they told him to go away and not disturb the sanctuary of their king. As the Bible relates later, Amos' warning came true and the Jews became captives and into exile.

Telling people what is wrong is a risky task but it is best said than not at all. Still there are things that have to be said. The Pope wrote what must be said about climate change and its impact on the poverty of the world that is exacerbated by human greed.

Many of the things that are happening today had been foretold, not as predestined but because certain factors play to create the situation. This is actually not difficult to understand. We know that fire burns and when we place our hands over hot coals, we know what will happen. Thus when a parent tells the child to avoid drugs, the parent knows what will happen. In a sense the parent is “prophesying.” So do teachers and friends of goodwill.

German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer rationalized this as cause and effect. He said, “Reason deserves to be called a prophet; for in showing up the consequences and effect of our actions in the present, does it not tell us what the future will be?”

Our problem often is that we look down on people who we think are beneath our status or who are not of our own social and economic circles. Thus we close our eyes and ears except to those we have placed on a pedestal.

But a cursory look at the prophets of ancient times, these men are humble, simple and some are even reluctant to speak. Amos that I cited above was a shepherd and a pruner of the sycamore tree but as he told the Jews, God told him to tell the people of their sins and that God will destroy them except the tribe of Judah. Of course among famous ones of the New Testament is St. John the Baptist who lost his head when he chastised Herod for his lust.

Modern times have our own prophets, like the Popes who warned us of many of the ills we have today. They wrote encyclicals warning of the rise of atheistic communism, of Hitler's version of nationalism, of the outbreaks of world wars (I and II), rise of racism, unequal development of the modern world, results of the violation of human life and other issues. But who listened until these scourges of mankind come to pass?*




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