Two Conservative members of Parliament are now travelling around the country and appearing in various media outlets appealing to fellow party members to make them the next Prime Minister. These some 180,000 party members will choose who is to be in charge of the UK’s population of about 67.2m people.

Whoever is chosen, will this person really be in charge and have the power to bring about the economic and social changes they are now promising to deliver? For instance, will the gap between rich and poor, despite the best efforts of all recent governments, continue to widen?

We are hearing today’s Gospel reading at a time when, according to the Joseph Roundtree Foundation, more than one in five of the UK population – 22 per cent – live in poverty. By contrast, in the Mediterranean world in which Jesus lived and St Luke wrote his Gospel, the poor – peasants – made up about 90 percent of the country’s population. In their poverty then they knew only too well that they had no power over their lives and were not in charge of anything. Mother Nature controlled the climate. Their landowners controlled what they could plant and how much of the crop they could keep back for themselves. And the Romans occupied their land and forced them to pay taxes to the Emperor.

While Jesus loved the poor, he did not love their poverty. In fact, much of his ministry centred on caring for them. In St Luke’s Gospel, the rich and powerful are accused of accumulating their wealth at the expense of the poor. But however much he cared for the poor, Jesus accepted that because of aggressive human greed “the poor you have with you always”.

For Jesus, the poor, weak, downtrodden and vulnerable have a special place in his kingdom. While he abhorred their condition, he saw in them a total dependence on God which he encouraged everyone to have. So in today’s Gospel we hear him encouraging his followers to turn to and address God as “Father,” just as he did, to see in God one who can behave just like a father towards his children.

Of all the things he encouraged them to bring to God’s attention in prayer, as a child to a father, they were to ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread’. This is a simple and childlike plea to be given the ordinary needs of everyday life.  

Sadly, this ‘daily bread’ is not available for all. According to the World Bank, some 9.2 per cent – or 689m people – live in extreme poverty in the world.  And it’s estimated that the effects of the pandemic and other combined crises will lead to an additional 75 million to 95 million people living in extreme poverty in this year, compared to pre-pandemic projections.

Why do some many go without the basic daily needs of life. Is it God’s fault? Or is it, perhaps, because people have not taken the whole of Christ’s teaching to heart? As Mahatma Gandhi once said, there’s enough [bread] for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Greed and selfishness are the opposite of loving your neighbour as yourself or ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

So maybe our old friend G K Chesterton may have had it right when he remarked that Christianity has not failed because it had not been tried.

Michael Campion
Holy Name, Jesmond
24 July 2022

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