The reason why our teacher was so impassioned about us doing this production was that he was obsessed with what would become of our generation. He truly believed that we were headed for some kind of banal, moral and social vacuity in our adult lives.
Now you have to understand, this man was no finger-wagging moralist in the sense you might imagine. In fact, I believe that he may have been Jewish, I know now that he was gay and that he was simply a truly good man and teacher.
He clearly wanted us to understand that our every act resulted in something and that our hearts as well as our communities would be best served if we realized the implications of our choices, both great and small. I clearly remember his saying to a confused group of teenagers, "what will become of you?!" Not that I understood at the time, but I have thought of his prophetic speech many times since.
The play is about a man who owns a factory during WWII. His plant produces less-than-quality parts which cause war planes to crash, killing many pilots, possibly including his own son. The rub is that he knowingly did so, which seemed small at the time. He ends up lying about it and compromising his entire life over it. Small things and great things - we must act in honesty, prudence and communal concern.
Today's readings remind us that we all must be concerned about such things, no matter what the era we live in. The opportunity for us to go astray is always present, no matter how good the good old days may seem. The theme of God calling us back is ever present.
In the first reading from the prophet Amos we hear this:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
"When will the new moon be over," you ask,
"that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
Amos is being pretty clear in addressing those who trample the poor and needy! And yet, so much of society is set up to do that very trampling. The pyramid-like structure of capitalism is meant for us to aspire to more and greater. No - I am not saying capitalism is bad; I am saying that it might require the counterbalance of prophets and of moral acts, in order to make it function with justice.
We all trample over someone with our endless need for more and cheaper things. And we ourselves are trampled over by someone else.
In the second reading from St. Paul we hear:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
That we might live quiet and tranquil lives... and that God wills everyone to be saved. Everyone. That is something to bear in mind when we consider trampling and/or being trampled; we end up participating in both more often than we might imagine.
And then of course, our Gospel from Luke...
Once again, we are offered long and short versions. This passage catches my eye and my heart:
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
Have we not just come through and continue to come through a period of dishonest wealth in our country and in the world? Well, if we think about it, all eras of history have this problem. If you don't think so, please refer back to our reading from Amos.
This is exactly why I was reminded of the play, All My Sons and my teacher's prophetic cry for my generation. How right he was!
I will focus on our current time but these things are sadly timeless... How do we not focus just on our own wealth and good? And how do we make sure that even a seemingly small "adjustment of truth" does not grow into a greater one, a truth that comes with a high price tag.
As Catholic Christians we live a faith based on our communal salvation. That is what St. Paul is pointing to and what this Gospel reminds us of. We are all sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. What happens to one, happens to all.
We cannot serve two masters, yet most of us serve at least that many. How can we be more aware of what this means to ourselves and to one another?
The Gospel that we are called to live, meaning the Gospel at large, but this one in particular, means that we must find ways to be responsible for ourselves by first being responsible for others. Even, and perhaps even more importantly, starting with the small things.
I am reminded of how often I rationalize an act or a decision - whether it is to use a paper plate at the risk of the environment, to shop at a store or buy a product that I know marginalizes employees or those who manufacture. This is carried forth if I make decisions that impact my family and/or community by investing my time, talent and treasure in that which does not serve the greater good.
In acts small and large we contribute to the Kingdom, literally re-membering the Body of Christ. And in acts small and large, we might also be likely to do the opposite.
It is not a destination, this choosing, it is a series of lifelong acts and actions, both great and small. And thankfully we have God and one another to help us along this way, so that all might be healed.
Oh how I wish I could find my teacher again - and thank this most unlikely of prophets for something that has been seared onto my soul by him and brought forth in this Christian life of faith.