I was disappointed to read (December I) that the charities raising funds for Third World relief and development should hesitate to make us wealthy British Christians feel guilty. I suggest that their scruples are mistaken.
If we were adequately fulfilling the will of God, we should feel no guilt, only compassion, when faced with the starving and undernourished. It is only as wrongdoers, by omission, that we feel guilt. The charities and the Church are our conscience.
We need to be educated about world problems and our duties, and then squeezed for every pound we can afford; it will cause us material distress, but can only bring spiritual benefits in wrenching us from the
claws of Mammon. Meanwhile the necessary spiritual potential must he maintained by prayer.
Look at what the Church teaches: "Feed a man who is dying — unless you feed him you kill him". Remember Dives and Lazarus: ignorance is no excuse for inaction.
The fact is that no Catholic can lay absolute claim to private property: we are only stewards, and God commands us to use our income and possessions for the coming of His Kingdom upon earth. On this we shall face judgment: the more we ignore the needy, the more severe will be our sentence.
For each one of us relatively rich and free Catholics here in the West, there are several overseas who are hungry, diseased, overworked, underpaid or persecuted. They depend on us for aid. Do we just fob them off with a rev.' pounds a year, when the average UK income is 180 a week? God wants to help them through our generosity. Will we allow him to?
Can any reader justify spending money on the private luxuries so highly prized by our greedy society
"desirable residences" in desirable areas, cars (unless essential), fitted kitchens and house extensions, stereos and fashionable clothes, central heating and fitted carpets, colour TVs arid restaurant meals?
Is it not sinful to waste money on such creature comforts and status symbols --money owed to feed and teach the hungry and oppressed, with whom Jesus stands -to our everlasting shame? True, we have been indoctrinated and manipulated by the advertisers and salesmen. yet instead of clamouring for higher wages, most of us should voluntarily cut our living
standards by 10, 30 or even 50 per cent to benefit the oppressed and to show the materialists around us that they are wasting their own lives and the planet's resources.
Simultaneously, we must relearn to borrow and lend. to buy second
hand, to make do and mend, to avoid the purchase of brand-new consumer goods. We must learn not to want what we do not need.
In a false sense of solicitude for our material welfare, the clergy have soft-pedalled the full and terrifying onslaught of the Gospel and the Old Testament prophets against materialism, against the heedless rich. Yet to tailor the Gospel to what is "acceptable" leads to disaster, for the liuman spirit needs challenge.
See how the young have mostly dismissed religion as irrelevant, enticed away towards their damna tion by an indulgent pagan society Has the alternative of joyful, dynamic, communal. frugal Christianity been put fully before them, Unless we act with justice and love, our prayers are empty lipservice. Look for an easy comfortable life, or be a Christian. Only an expert at self-deception can try to do both.
Francis Marsden Cheshire.