Where are you?

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The question God asks man after the fall still echoes in our times and challenges us: “Where are you?”

That question summarizes the central issues facing our humanity both at a personal level and at a collective level because it invites us to a deep introspection about our concrete existential situation, our place in the universe and our relationship with God.

One of the consequences of original sin is the clouding of our understanding, so that moral decisions that, in principle, ought to follow the natural order accessible to reason, become difficult, especially in our current cultural context marked by ideologies that deny the existence of the natural order and reject as an arbitrary imposition any attempt to discover and embrace truth by the application of reason. Therefore, if it was always important to be alert, it is much more urgent today. We, Christians, have the assistance of grace and the teachings of the Church, which offers us a sure roadmap so that we can walk down paths of holiness and ever greater communion with God and one another.

A few weeks ago, the Holy See published a guide to help us in our ethical discernment of some aspects of the present economic and financial system. This has been a constant concern of the popes of the 20th century because, as Pope Benedict XVI taught, investment decisions are also moral decisions and, therefore, as the document points out, they require an ethical evaluation.

“Every human reality and activity is something positive, if it is lived within the horizon of an adequate ethics that respects human dignity and is directed to the common good. This is valid for all institutions, for it is within them that human social life is born, and thus it is also true for markets at every level, including financial markets.

It must be noted that the systems that give life to the markets—before deploying the anonymous dynamics made possible by ever more sophisticated technologies—are in fact founded on relationships that involve the freedom of individual human beings. It is evident therefore that the economy, like every other sphere of human action, “needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centered.”

It is evident that without an appropriate vision of the human person, it is not possible to create an ethics, nor a practice, worthy of the dignity of the human person and the good that is truly common. In fact, however neutral and detached from every basic concept one may claim to be, every human action, even in the economic sphere, implies some conception of the human person and of the world, which reveals its value through both the effects and the developments it produces.

In this sense, our contemporary age has shown itself to have a limited vision of the human person, as the person is understood individualistically and predominantly as a consumer, whose profit consists above all in the optimization of his or her monetary income. The human person, however, actually possesses a uniquely relational nature and has a sense for the perennial search for gains and well-being that may be more comprehensive, and not reducible either to a logic of consumption or to the economic aspects of life.

The fundamentally relational nature of the human person is characterized essentially by a rationality that resists a reductionist view of one’s basic needs. In this regard, it is impossible to be silent in the face of today’s tendency to reify every exchange of “goods” as if it were no more than a mere exchange of “things.”

In reality, it is evident that in the transmission of goods among persons there is always something more than mere material goods at play, given the fact that the material goods are often vehicles of immaterial goods whose concrete presence or absence decisively determines the quality of these very economic relationships (for example, trust, equity, and cooperation). It is at this level that one can well understand that the logic of giving with nothing in return is not an alternative to, but rather is inseparable from and complementary to the exchange of equivalent goods.

It is easy to note the advantages of a vision of the human person understood as constitutively inserted in a network of relationships that are in themselves a positive resource. Every person is born within a familial environment, enjoying a set of pre-existing relationships without which life would be impossible. The human person develops through the stages of life thanks to pre-existing bonds that actualize one’s being in the world as freedom continuously shared. These are the original bonds that define the human person as a relational being who lives in what Christian Revelation calls “communion”.

This original nature of communion, while revealing in every human person a trace of the affinity with God who creates and calls one into a relationship with himself, is also that which naturally orients the person to the life of communion, the fundamental place for one’s fulfillment. One’s own recognition of this character, as an original and constitutive element of our human identity, allows us to look at others not primarily as potential competitors, but rather as possible allies, in the construction of the good that is authentic only if it is concerned about each and every person simultaneously.

Such relational anthropology helps the human person to recognize the validity of economic strategies that aim above all to promote the global quality of life that, before the indiscriminate expansion of profits, leads the way toward the integral well-being of the entire person and of every person. No profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor. These are three principles that imply and necessarily point to one another, with a  view to the construction of a world that is more equitable and united.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid