God’s Gift Economy: Food w/o Overwork

Manna

Readings for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ex. 16:2-4, 12-15; Ps. 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54; Eph. 4:17, 20-24; Jn. 6:24-35

Allow me to set up this Sunday’s reflections with three items connected with the topic of over-work and wages. I believe all three are linked to today’s readings.

(1) Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse working with Hospice International has written a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Nurse Ware worked in palliative care for 12 years. And during that time, she recognized an unmistakable pattern especially in dying men. As they talked of their past lives many of them expressed similar regrets. According to Ms. Ware, at least among men, the top death-bed regret was, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working.” They regretted not spending more time with family and doing the things that make life enjoyable and really worth living.

(2) There was an interesting article in The New York Times few years back. It was about happiness and its connection with money. The article was entitled something like “How Much Money Does It Take to Be Happy?”
What do you think the figure was? The Times article said that while everyone recognizes that money can’t buy happiness, levels of contentment stop increasing once households reach a level of $75,000. As incomes increase beyond that, more money and the consumption it allows do not actually make people more content.
That’s surprising, isn’t it? It suggests that six figure salaries and the incomes of millionaires and billionaires might in the end be rather pointless – and not worth protecting (as many of our politicians seem so hell-bent on doing). Am I correct?

(3) In 2012, I published an article in the on-line news source, OpEdNews. The piece was called “Thank God for the Jobs Crisis.” Calling on authors like Jeremy Rifkin, J.W. Smith, and Juliette Shor, I argued that replacing workers with robots is actually a good sign. It indicates that the promise of what used to be called the “Cybernetic Age” has finally come true. Computers and robots have taken over the job market to such an extent that the only way to solve the “jobs crisis” is to share the work. That means that none of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to the new technology, we could all share the work and put in four-hour days or three-day weeks. Alternatively, we could work for only six months a year, or every other year and still make a living wage. We could retire at 40. And this would be possible world-wide.

We’d pay for all of this by cutting back the military budget 60% and by taxing the rich and corporations. Remember the 91% top-level tax bracket that was in place in the United States following World War II? We could reinstate that, I said. We could boldly restructure the economy and share the wealth that is there in abundance.
__________

Please hold those thoughts if you will. They are about spending too much time working to reach income levels that don’t really make us any happier, and about the possibility of a whole new way of life that disconnects consumption from the type of employment many of us resent.

All three of those considerations turn out to be closely connected with this Sunday’s liturgical readings. All three readings are about God’s economy of gift and abundance – unbelievable gift and abundance with no work required. The readings are about work, consumption and the power that faith supplies to break away from overwork, competition, scarcity, and fear that have most of us spending too much time on the job.

Consider that first reading. The Israelites have just been liberated from Egypt. It was an economy where God’s People were even more literally enslaved by their work than we are. (Can you imagine how many Hebrew slaves died with regrets about working too much?) But their slave labor, unsatisfying as it was, at least provided food.

In fact, the Hebrews were so bound to Egypt’s enslaving economy that they could hardly conceive a reality outside it. Who would feed them now that they were without work? At least they had something to eat in Egypt. The Pharaoh ran a tight ship there but put food on their tables. But who, after all, was this rebel leader, Moses? How would he feed them out there? Today’s Exodus reading says that the Hebrews actually resented Moses and his “false promise” of a better life.

And the story’s response? Through the provision of manna, God suggests the new order God has in mind not only for Israel, but for all of humanity. Unbelievably, God rains bread down on the people. No work needed. The main requirement: don’t take more than you need. Don’t hoard.

It was like Jesus’ desert feeding of 5000 in last week’s readings. The message: everybody deserves food whether they can pay for it or not, whether or not they work, whether or not they want to work. There will be enough for all, as long as no one takes more than he needs. (Actually, Gandhi said something like that: “There is enough in the world,” he said, “to satisfy everyone’s need, but not to satisfy everyone’s greed.”)

When you heard my proposal this morning about sharing the work, did you react like the Hebrews? “Yeah, right,” you might have thought. “When’s that gonna happen?” I mean, we find it almost impossible to break out of the mindset of overwork. We can hardly allow ourselves to imagine that God is so generous that overwork is not required to enjoy the good life. We can’t conceive of what we’d do if our needs were met without enslaving ourselves to those who would convince us that scarcity rather than plenty and abundance represent God’s way – God’s will for us.

Consider today’s second reading as well – still in the context of our work lives. There Paul tells the Christian community at Ephesus that the lives of those without faith are (in Paul’s words) “futile.” That’s because they are deceived by what Paul terms “desires” for more than they need. Those desires, Paul implies, always make promises beyond their capacity to deliver.

I don’t care what The New York Times says, the better off among us might tell themselves, $75,000 per household is not enough. Others say neither is a million or a billion. More is always needed. But, Paul points out, despite what our unbelieving culture tells us, beyond the point of satisfying basic needs, more actually adds little to our happiness. In fact, it can greatly increase unhappiness. It seems The New York Times agrees.

Such considerations have relevance to today’s political scene. So-called “experts” argue that there are not enough resources to feed, clothe, house, and cure the earth’s seven billion people. But, of course, that’s not true. Remember my reference last week to the U.N. study that said that a mere 4% tax on the world’s richest 225 men (They are men almost without exception) could meet all those needs.

What if $100,000 or even a million were set as the highest income anyone was allowed to earn in a single year? If the Times is correct, no one would be any unhappier for it. And think of the resources that would be released to enrich the lives of those for whom today’s cybernetic economy can’t supply jobs. (Keep that in mind the next time you hear a politician resisting tax increases on the world’s richest.)

For Paul, it’s a matter of faith – yes even questions of taxation, I’d say. (And that brings us to that third point about a new future of abundance with greatly reduced hours in the workplace.) We used to believe in the world’s promise of unlimited more, Paul reminds his readers. But that was our old self listening. The New Self which we’ve adopted through faith in Jesus has learned God’s way from the Master not to mention Moses and the manna in the desert. And of course, God’s way is the way of the Kingdom – a world with room for everyone. That’s what Paul tells us.

The gospel of today’s liturgy completely supports Paul’s point. John the Evangelist has Jesus say “Don’t work for bread that perishes. Work for imperishable bread – those relationships with family and friends, time with your spouse and kids, the fruits of creative self-expression in tune with your unique gifts,” Work for those, Paul suggests, and avoid the “top five regrets of the dying.”

Don’t we all wish we could do that? However, to do so we must ignore that old self Paul refers to, and make room for the New Self to emerge. And what a struggle that is! It means actually believing that there is a Giver who will provide for us the way the Great Provider did in the desert with Moses and in the desert with Jesus when he fed the 5000.

Do we really believe there is such a Provider? Think about it in the context of work, deathbed regrets, money’s inability to make us happy, and structural unemployment connected to the digital revolution. What are the implications of that belief for our personal, familial, political and work lives? (Discussion follows.)

The Poor Know More than the Rich: Paulo Freire on What the Impoverished Can Teach Us All (Personal Reflections XV)

Freire Trust

Our world is characterized by an ongoing “conflict” (not to say “war”) waged by the rich and powerful against the poor and politically powerless. It’s all an inheritance of colonialism, which did not disappear after World War II. Instead, colonialism simply took other more sophisticated forms. As J.W. Smith puts it, the system changed from “plunder by raid” to “plunder by trade.” The enduring point is to keep the wealth and power where it’s been since the onset of the colonial era – with the plundering powers (Europe and the United States) which have systematically robbed the resources of the former colonies whose populations today (unsurprisingly) constitute the world’s poor.

One cannot be neutral in the conflict just referenced; one must take sides.  As our friend and mentor Paulo Freire put it, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

My forty-plus years of travel, teaching, and scholarship in the Global South (Brazil, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Cuba) have taught me the truth of Paulo’s words. Not to decide is to decide – in favor of the status quo.

When sides are consciously taken with the poor and oppressed, a whole counter-narrative emerges that rarely gets a hearing in the United States whose official policy favors the rich and powerful. The counter-narrative about history, economics and politics comes from the underclasses that so concerned Paulo Freire and the liberation theologians I’ve studied with in the countries I’ve just mentioned as well as in the U.S. and Europe.

But here’s the Freirean point: the counter-narrative of the poor is more comprehensive and informed than the one typically pedaled in the United States. In fact, the U.S. story (pretending to be neutral) is actually the product of one-sided “banking” model of education that endorses oppression as normal and inevitable.

Let me explain.

Paulo Freire famously contrasted what he called the banking concept of education with “education for critical consciousness.” In the banking model, teachers make deposits of knowledge into the “accounts” of passive, unsuspecting students. What they learn is mostly irrelevant to their everyday lives. However it amounts to the “official story” which remains unquestioned and explains the given order as normal and good.

On the other hand, education for critical consciousness “problematizes” the students’ own reality and asks them to come up with solutions to real dilemmas: for example, their own hunger, its causes, and how to escape it. In the process they learn how the world works and come up with strategies to change their immediate experience.

Freire also made key distinctions about the stages of consciousness typically passed through by learners  among the world’s majority poor and oppressed. Normally, he said, students begin with the resigned attitude that “to be is to be under the oppressor.” They see no exit from their poverty and life’s circumstances. From there they pass to a second stage: “to be is to be like the oppressor.” They take the rich and powerful as their role models.  They want to be like them – rich and successful. Finally, if they persevere in the growth process, poor students arrive at a stage where they realize that “to be is to be neither oppressor nor oppressed.” In that stage they start taking active and proactive measures against their own poverty and oppression.  They work to change the world.

[BTW: Part of my quarrel with Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” (which is where these reflections began) is that it reflects Freire’s second stage of consciousness – to be is to be like the Oppressor. In the play, African-American and Hispanic actors literally pretend to be their white oppressors; they actually celebrate the ones who enslaved and exterminated their ancestors – the ones who excoriated Native Americans in the Declaration of Independence and who wrote slavery into the U.S. Constitution.]

Towards accomplishing the task of changing the world, the poor have an epistemological privilege in their analysis of life in general. Though typically far less formally educated than the rich, their perception and analysis is characteristically more comprehensive and accurate. They might not be able to make the historical references or to employ the academic jargon; they might not use complete sentences or be grammatically correct, but simply put, the poor know more about life.

Why? Think about it for a minute.

Those of us who are rich and/or comfortable have very limited experience and awareness.  Our communities are pretty much siloed and gated. As a result, we can live without consciousness of the poor at all. Wall Street execs rarely really see them. The poor are located in different parts of town. Most even in the middle class never enter their homes or schools. The comfortable have no experience of hunger, coping with rats, imminent street crime, living on minimum wage, or cashing in Food Stamps. Even if they notice the poor occasionally, the comfortable can quickly dismiss them from their minds. If they never saw the poor again, the rich and middle class would continue their lives without much change. In sum, they have very little idea of the lived experience of the world’s majority.

That becomes more evident still by thinking of the poor outside the confines of the developed world who live on two dollars a day or less. Most in the industrialized west know nothing of such people’s languages, cultures, history, or living conditions. I’m talking about “enemies” living in Syria, Iraq, Somalia or Yemen.  Even though our governments drop bombs on such people every day, they remain only abstractions. That is, few of us know what it really means to live under threat of hellfire missiles, phosphorous bombs or drones. Similarly, we know little of the actual motives for “their terrorism.” Syria could drop off the map tomorrow and nothing for most of us would change.

None of this can be said for the poor and the victims of bombing. They have to be aware not only of their own life’s circumstances, but of the mostly white people who employ them, shape their lives, or drop bombs on their homes. The poor serve the rich in restaurants. They clean their homes. They cut their lawns. They beg from them on the streets. The police arrest, beat, torture and murder their children.

If the U.S., for example, dropped off the planet tomorrow, the lives of the poor would be drastically altered – mostly for the better. In other words, the poor and oppressed must have dual awareness. For survival’s sake, they must know what the rich minority values, how it thinks and operates. They must know more about the world than the rich and/or comfortable.

That’s why when the poor develop “critical consciousness,” (like Malcolm X or Mumia Abu Jamal) their analysis is typically more comprehensive, inclusive, credible, and full. They have vivid awareness not only of life circumstances that “make no difference” to their comfortable counterparts; they also have lived experience of life on the other side of the tracks.

However despite such comprehensive knowledge, the critically conscious poor and their representatives find little place in mainstream analysis which comes overwhelmingly from white, well-to-do, and university-educated men.

This is why I’ve learned to give scant credence to mainstream media (MSM) explanations of the world and always takes pains to understand reality from the viewpoint of the epistemologically privileged poor and oppressed – found outside the MSM. Those viewpoints are more comprehensive and informed.

Such Freirean insights are, I think, worth thinking about.

(Next week: My study of liberation theology in Brazil)

International Labor Day Post: The Machines Are Coming! Thank God!

machines coming

Recently Zeynep Tufecki wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “The Machines Are Coming.” Hers was a warning about the devastating effect of technology on the job market. Machines have eliminated jobs across the board, she lamented – from secretarial positions to auto workers to medical diagnosticians and college professors.

Unlike Tufecki, I see this as good news — a promise of more free time and leisure.

In fact, many more jobs than Tufecki indicates might also be eliminated – and probably should be. Think weapons manufacture, the military itself, the advertising industry, call centers, insurance companies, fast food, and (above all!) Wall Street jobs connected with financial speculation. None of these occupations are truly necessary or even productive. Face it: they are mere busy work.

Still other jobs are on their way out. Remember what happened to Encyclopedia Britannica that didn’t see Wikipedia coming. Think of the music industry involuntarily “downsized” by file sharing.

And what about newspapers? They are currently in crisis because of the advent free news websites. They’ll soon be history. Similarly “distance learning” is having its own impact on higher education as bricks and mortar campuses sun-set whether or not their trustees see the coming train wreck.

Again, all of this can be good news.

Energy industries will be especially affected. According to Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization, new technology will soon drive climate-changing oil and dirty coal out of business too.

This is not a pipe dream. Surplus energy can already be stored in hydrogen cells. And the energy produced will soon be shared person-to-person across a “smart grid.” Again, the model here is file-sharing.

The European Union’s ideal is to turn every building’s rooftop into a solar energy power plant.

Think of the jobs that will be eliminated as a result – including those required by the energy wars that will be rendered superfluous.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t productive work crying out to be done. Green technologies in general and public transportation are obvious needs. The number of potential jobs connected with them is substantial. But there are not nearly enough green jobs to replace the ones that have been eliminated by technology and those that should be discarded because they are environmentally destructive and morally unsustainable.

So what should be done about all of this? Here is the hopeful part. Rifkin showed the way years ago. So did Juliette Shor (The Overworked American).  J.W. Smith (Economic Democracy: the Political Struggle of the Twenty-First Century) was even more articulate about the path ahead: SHARE THE WORK.

The good news is that none of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to the new technology, we could work four-hour days or three-day weeks, or for only six months a year, or every other year. And with military spending reduced by 75%, we could still make a living wage — retiring by 40. And this is possible world-wide.

It is all now within our grasp. We just have to recognize that and get the subject on the political agenda.

No one needs to be reminded that we are entering the election season. I wonder what Hilary and Jeb think about all of this.

Be sure to ask them.

Mali for Dummies (Part Two: Mali)

th[7]

On Monday we saw that U.S. interest in the 3rd world (i.e. the former colonies) follows the pattern identified by J.W. Smith of the Institute for Economic Democracy. That pattern holds that:

1. Any former colony (or group within that entity) attempting to break for economic freedom
2. By establishing government representing the interests of its own people rather than those of the former Mother Country
3. Will be accused of terrorism or communism
4. And will be overthrown by military intervention
5. Or by right wing (often terrorist) elements from within the local population
6. To keep that country within the ex-mother country’s sphere of influence
7. So that the former colonists might continue to use the country’s resources for the invaders own enrichment,
8. And that of the local elite.

Following that sequence, U.S. and E.U. interest in Mali is driven by resource concerns, not by zeal for democracy or anti-terrorism. It is also motivated by competition with China for the resources in question (uranium, oil, and gold among others).

The indigenous Tuaregs represent an obstacle to the desired U.S. and E.U. access to those resources. The Tuaregs are secular Muslims – i.e. not fundamentalists desiring to impose Sharia Law. Since achieving independence from French colonialism in the early 1960s, the Tuaregs have been seeking independence from the artificially created Mali. Tuaregs want control of their own territory and its resources, presumably with the option of selling them to China. In fact, the Tuareg want their own country (Azawad). Presumably, Azawad would eventually be co-extensive with the Tuareg People who spill over into parts of neighboring Niger, Algeria and elsewhere in the region.

The Tauregs see Mali’s government as the puppet of France facilitating alienation of Azawad’s valuable resources from the Tuareg People to benefit France, the E.U. and U.S. To achieve liberation from such western control, the Tuaregs have organized a rebel army, the NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad).
In its drive for independence and control of its own resources, the NMLA was supported by Muammar Gaddafi. As a “Pan Africanist,” Gaddafi was a proponent of ‘Africa for Africans” and generally opposed continued control of the continent by the U.S. and Europe. (This was a principal reason for western demonization of the man.)

Many Tuaregs were part of Gaddafi’s army. And after its dissolution (with major intervention by the U.S. and E.U.), these Tuareg fighters returned to Northern Mali with many of Gaddafi’s sophisticated weapons. Their heavily armed participation in the Tuareg struggle enabled the NMLA to make strong headway against the government of Mali, thus causing concern to its European and American sponsors about unfettered access to the region’s uranium and other resources. In fact the NMLA gained complete control of Northern Mali, declared their rebellion successful and announced withdrawal of Azawad from Mali. As far as Azawadians were concerned, the rebellion was over.

It was not over however for the U.S. and France. In response, they facilitated a military coup to replace Mali’s president (seen as ineffective against the Tuaregs), substituting in his place a U.S.-trained military general. His new government [allied with the U.S. and E.U. (led by France)] encouraged Muslim jihadists (otherwise considered “terrorists” by the West) to rebel against the NMLA so as to weaken its hold on the country’s North. According to western sources, chief among the Muslim jihadists is AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb).

AQIM successes have created a cover for France (with support from the U.S.) to intervene directly in Mali under the claim of prosecuting its “war on terrorism” against the AQIM it had just used for its own purposes up north. However, the real intent of the intervention (as it has been for 500 years) is resource transfer to the E.U. and U.S.

And that’s where most of us dummies came in. The story never changes, and we’ll fall for it every time: We’ll also be expected to dumbly foot the resulting bill and eventually accept austerity measures to pay for it.

Thanks to Faith (and the Digital Revolution) A World without Overwork Is Possible

Today’s Readings: Ex. 16:2-4, 12-15; Ps. 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54; Eph. 4:17, 20-24; Jn. 6:24-35

Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse working with Hospice International has written a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Nurse Ware worked in palliative care for 12 years. And during that time she recognized an unmistakable pattern especially in dying men. As they talked of their past lives many of them expressed similar regrets. According to Ms. Ware, at least among men, the top death-bed regret was, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working.” They regretted not spending more time with family and doing the things that make life enjoyable and really worth living.

_____

There was an interesting article in The New York Times about a month ago. It was about happiness and its connection with money. The article was entitled something like “How Much Money Does It Take to Be Happy?” What do you think the figure was?

The Times article said that while everyone recognizes that money can’t buy happiness, levels of contentment stop increasing once households reach a level of $75,000. As incomes increase beyond that, more money and the consumption it allows do not actually make people more content. Do you find that surprising? It suggests that six figure salaries and the incomes of millionaires and billionaires might in the end be rather pointless – and not worth protecting (as many of our politicians seems so hell-bent on doing).  Am I correct?

_____

I recently published an article in the on-line news source, OpEdNews. The piece was called “Thank God for the Jobs Crisis.” (The article was also posted on this blog site last Labor Day.) Calling on authors like Jeremy Rifkin, J.W. Smith, and Juliette Shor, I argued that the unemployment crisis that has stuck with us since 2008 is actually a good sign. It indicates that the promise of what used to be called the “Cybernetic Age” has finally come true. Computers and robots have taken over the job market to such an extent that the only way to solve the “jobs crisis” is to share the work. That means that none of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to the new technology, we could all share the work and put in four-hour days or three-day weeks. Alternatively we could work for only six months a year, or every other year and still make a living wage.  We could retire at 40. And this would be possible world-wide.

We’d pay for all of this by cutting back the military budget 60% and by taxing the rich and corporations. Remember the 91% top-level tax bracket that was in place in the United States following World War II? We could reinstate that, I said. Share the wealth. Boldly restructure the economy. Embrace the new technology’s promise along with the life of leisure that it offers.

_____

Please hold those thoughts if you will. They were about spending too much time working to reach income levels that don’t really make us any happier, and about the possibility of a whole new way of life that disconnects consumption from the type of employment many of us resent.

In fact, all three of those considerations are closely connected with this Sunday’s liturgical readings. All three readings are about God’s economy of gift and abundance – unbelievable gift and abundance with no work required. The readings are about work, consumption and the power faith supplies to break away from overwork, competition, scarcity, and fear that have most of us overworked.

Consider that first reading. The Israelites have just been liberated from Egypt. It was an economy where God’s People were even more literally enslaved by their work than we are. (Can you imagine how many Hebrew slaves died with regrets about working too much?) But their slave labor, unsatisfying as it was, at least provided food. In fact, the Hebrews were so bound to Egypt’s enslaving economy that they could hardly conceive a reality outside it. Who would feed them now that they were without work? At least they had something to eat in Egypt. The Pharaoh ran a tight ship there and put food on their tables. But who, after all, was this rebel leader, Moses? How would he feed them out there? The Hebrews actually resented Moses and his “false promise” of a better life.

And the story’s response? Through the provision of manna, God suggests a new order God has in mind not only for Israel, but for all of humanity. Unbelievably, God rains bread down on the people. No work needed. The main requirement: don’t take more than you need. Don’t hoard. It’s like Jesus’ desert feeding of 5000 in last week’s readings. The message: everybody deserves food whether they can pay for it or not, whether or not they work, whether or not they want to work. There will be enough for all, as long as no one takes more than he needs. (Actually Gandhi said something like that: “There is enough in the world,” he said, “to satisfy everyone’s need, but not to satisfy everyone’s greed.”)

When you heard my proposal this morning about sharing the work, did you react like the Hebrews? “Yeah, right,” you might have thought. “When’s that gonna happen?” I mean, we find it almost impossible to break out of the mindset of overwork. We can hardly allow ourselves to imagine that God is so generous that overwork is not required to enjoy the good life. We can’t conceive of what we’d do if our needs were met without enslaving ourselves to those who would convince us that scarcity rather than plenty and abundance represent God’s way – God’s will for us.

Consider today’s second reading as well – still in the context of our work lives. There Paul tells the Christian community at Ephesus that the lives of those without faith are (in Paul’s words) “futile.” That’s because they are deceived by what Paul terms “desires” for more than they need. Those desires, Paul implies, always make promises beyond their capacity to deliver. I don’t care what The New York Times says, the better off among us might tell themselves, $75,000 per household is not enough. Others say neither is a million or a billion. More is always needed. But, Paul points out, despite what our unbelieving culture tells us, beyond the point of satisfying basic needs, more actually adds little to our happiness. In fact, it can greatly increase unhappiness. It seems The New York Times agrees.

Such considerations have relevance to today’s political scene. So-called “experts” argue that there are not enough resources to feed, clothe, house, and cure the earth’s seven billion people. But, of course, that’s not true. Remember my reference last week to the U.N. study that said that a mere 4% tax on the world’s richest 225 men (They are men almost without exception) could meet all those needs. What if $100,000 or even a million were set as the highest income anyone was allowed to earn in a single year? If the Times is correct, no one would be any unhappier for it. And think of the resources that would be released to enrich the lives of those for whom today’s cybernetic economy can’t supply jobs. (Keep that in mind the next time you hear a politician resisting tax increases on the world’s richest.)  

For Paul, it’s a matter of faith – yes even questions of taxation, I’d say. (And that brings us to that third point about a new future of abundance with greatly reduced hours in the workplace.) We used to believe in the world’s promise of unlimited more, Paul reminds his readers. But that was our old self listening. The New Self which we’ve adopted through faith in Jesus has learned God’s way from the Master not to mention Moses and the manna in the desert. And of course God’s way is the way of the Kingdom – a world with room for everyone. That’s what Paul tells us.

The gospel of today’s liturgy completely supports Paul’s point. John the Evangelist has Jesus say “Don’t work for bread that perishes. Work for imperishable bread – those relationships with family and friends, time with your spouse and kids, the fruits of creative self-expression in tune with your unique gifts,” Work for those, Paul suggests, and avoid the “top five regrets of the dying.”

Don’t we all wish we could do that? However to do so we must ignore that old self Paul refers to, and make room for the New Self to emerge. And what a struggle that is! It means actually believing that there is a Giver who will provide for us the way the Great Provider did in the desert with Moses and in the desert with Jesus when he fed the 5000.

Do we really believe there is such a Provider? Think about it in the context of work, deathbed regrets, money’s inability to make us happy, and structural unemployment connected to the digital revolution. What are the implications of that belief for our personal, familial, political and work lives? (Discussion follows.)