by Fr David Stewart SJ
Easter Sunday begins the month of April this year. The Pope has invited us to witness to the Resurrection in several ways, including his Intention for this month: ‘that economists may have the courage to reject any economy of exclusions and know how to open new paths’. We, his personal Prayer Network, are given a mission directly from the Holy Father to make his intention widely known, offering our day each morning to become more apostolically available, uniting our prayer with his. We’re invited to respond by considering how these concerns are present in our own lives and social settings. Our three challenges offer us concrete ways of making that response.
This Easter Day and Eastertide, therefore, is a great opportunity to focus our prayer on how Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection were for all of humanity, not just some of us. Thus our response ought to be similarly inclusive. We are people of the Resurrection, an Easter people and we are inserted into a world that needs to know this, that needs to see the Resurrection in each of us and in how we live our lives.
Economists try to observe and measure the financial patterns of our world, ranging from local communities to whole countries and even continents, the entire world. They have real power. Governments look to economists to help shape policies that affect everyone: taxation, distribution of wealth, growth and international trade negotiations. Economists may not make government policy, but certainly influence it and that means that they are obliged to consider the moral implications of that advice. Precisely because those governmental choices, based on the advice received from economists, affects the living standards of all, that expert advice must not ignore the poorest. It cannot involve only technical economic decisions, but moral ones. April’s intention, and our challenges for the month, place an obligation on economists to ensure that the advice they offer is inclusive.
That this concern is on the Pope’s heart at this time demonstrates his disquiet about how our economic structures are designed to exclude. It is not enough to say that this is just the way the world works, or that the impersonal forces of the market cannot be corrected by human action. Pope Francis has often spoken of this problem facing humanity as a ‘culture of exclusion’ and a ‘throwaway culture’.
Speaking to a gathering of United Nations agency heads in 2014, he condemned forcefully the ‘economy of exclusion’, and in 2016 he told a conference in Rome that ‘an economy of exclusion and inequality’ leads some of us to become ‘the disenfranchised and those discarded as unproductive and useless’. In the same speech, he called for new economic thinking that is ‘more clearly directed to the universal common good, inclusion and integral development, the creation of labour and investment in human resources’ (source: L’Osservatore Romano, May 2016). On many other occasions, Pope Francis has gone even further, demanding that this ‘culture of exclusion’ be replaced by a new ‘culture of encounter’.
British Jesuit Fr Frank Turner SJ, writing in our Living Prayer 2018 booklet (a few copies still available – please enquire), notes that we could ‘imagine economics simply as the study of money or finance as such … measured by growth and profit, no matter who benefits and who is excluded’. He cites the American theologian Joe Holland’s ironic joke that ‘the economy’s fine; it’s just the people having a hard time’. The call of this month’s Intention is that economists may come to see their work as a vocation, seeking those new paths that will serve the shared human good.
This month, we continue our revival of the old Apostleship of Prayer tradition of offering monthly challenges, based on the Pope’s Intention. For April, we are invited to:
Learn more about countries where there is greater imbalance between rich and poor and find what leads to these situations.
Promote, in the local community or at home, opportunities to welcome people who are excluded from society for economic reasons (unemployment, situations of vulnerability, poverty, etc.). Ask why they are excluded.
Personally and communally, take time for prayer, keeping in mind those who make the big decisions around the world, asking God to let his Spirit touch them, so that they may find new ways to build up an economy that is inclusive.
Ask the Spirit of God to lead you to a place of interior stillness. Try to find a few moments and an exterior place where you can be peaceful and prayerful, even if only for a few minutes. Become conscious of God looking at you, now. Rest in God’s gaze for a few moments.
Then think about the economic arrangements in our world and the decisions that governments make; which of these lead to exclusion and the ‘throwaway culture’? How does the Trinity view this situation?
Then bring to mind examples of people who have been discarded or excluded. Perhaps you are in that group or perhaps you have influence over policy or decisions that could lead to exclusion. Again, how does God see those who have been excluded?
Begin to consider, in this prayerful space, different possible courses of action open to you. Notice what attracts and enlivens you about possible strategies. Notice also when a possible outcome makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Take careful note of what feelings arise in your heart as you do so. Do not judge or analyse them, but ask the Good Spirit to show you the deeper meaning they present.
Daily Offering Prayer:
Good Father, you created this world and gave it to your children that they might live off its fruit through the work of their hands and ingenuity.
Our common home is the place where we begin to live already the happiness of Heaven, as your children, brothers and sisters of one another.
But in this world there is so much discrimination, so much exclusion, and few have what should be the possession of many.
United to the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, we offer our days, words and deeds, so that those in charge of the economy know how to think and choose plans that do not leave anyone in the margins of the common good.
Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …
A few copies remain of our ‘Living Prayer 2018’ booklets containing each monthly Intention, some tips and hints on daily prayer and making the Morning Offering, and a handy tear-off page each month for your missal, prayer-book or diary. We’ve also new stocks of our popular ‘Making Good Decisions’ leaflets, available free although a postage-stamp would help cover our expenses! Order these and our other resources on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 020 8442 5232.
See also www.popesglobalprayer.net, www.thepopevideo.org and www.clicktopray.org.