23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

Remember what it was like before the dot-com bubble burst? Maybe you heard about tiny internet start-ups having total stock values in the billions and you just knew that that wouldn’t last. Remember the time before the recent housing bubble popped? I remember watching a show on TV called “Flip this House” in which a couple bought a building, put two weeks of work and a few thousand dollars into cleaning it up, and then quickly sold it for several tens of thousands of dollars more than what they bought it. I remember saying to myself then, “This just can’t go on. This isn’t sustainable.”

The thing about economic bubbles is that while you can often read the signs of the times and see that the bubble’s there, you’re never quite sure when it will pop.

For years now, our country has been riding on a similar bubble with the unsustainable spending and borrowing by the federal government. We’re not quite sure when it will finally pop, but you can see that the bubble’s there.  Most of us here will witness firsthand the consequences of its bursting.

The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan, independent government agency that provides economic data to Congress. And for years, regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans were in power, the CBO has consistently reported the unfortunate facts and grim forecasts of our present course. This summer, the CBO published its “Long-Term Budget Outlook.” And they tell us, quote…

“Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path—meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.

Although great uncertainty surrounds longterm fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. […]

Keeping deficits and debt from reaching levels that would cause substantial harm to the economy would require increasing revenues significantly…, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.”

Some or all of the following things will inevitably happen: an increased federal retirement age, decreased retirement benefits from Social Security, decreased health benefits from Medicare and/or Medicaid, increased federal taxes, or (and this seems the most likely) a dramatically increased national debt.

Now understand that an endlessly ballooning national debt is no solution.  It has economic consequences for us. What happens when foreign countries finally decide they are no longer interested in holding any more of our debt (in the form of low-interest yielding U.S. government bonds?) One result will be hyper-inflation, which will negatively impact anyone who uses U.S. Dollars. Unpleasant changes are coming. And they will have real consequences our lives. We will feel their effects.

Maybe hearing me speak about these grim realities feels as if I’ve just spit on your tongue.  It’s unpleasant and a bit repulsive. But my hope and prayer is that you will “be opened” by it, that you will be motivated to prepare yourself for what is coming, to begin living now as we should have already been living as Chrisitians all along.

In the past we have lived beyond our means, just like crowd, just like the government made in our own image. We spent more than we had and we often spent wastefully. But we are called to live differently, to live out Christian stewardship, Christian poverty, or simplicity of life in our own lives. Let’s not wait to hit economic rock bottom before we begin living as we ought to.

We are called to live simply and within our means, free from debt-slavery. We are called to be both frugal and generous, generous and frugal. If we are frugal without generosity, we’re simply being misers. If we are generous without frugality, we are being irresponsible. But if you are both frugal and generous won’t God, who (as the psalmist says) keeps faith forever, who secures justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, who supports the fatherless and the widow, won’t He provide you with what you need? On the other hand, if we are not frugal and generous, if we do not lovingly support our poor neighbors, those in our parish, throughout the diocese, and abroad, then how can we ask God to support us?

To quote St. James, “Act on this word.  If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” “Fear not, be strong.” “Be not afraid,” but prepare yourself. Prepare for the days when our accounts will come due.  For a day coming soon in our country, and for the Last Day, when we shall all appear before God.

Advertisements

One Response to “23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B”

  1. Uncle Larry Says:

    Father Victor– Excellent homily… it is a good blend of your Catholic and secular education in economics. It is good that you are giving your parishioners some
    nudging and a heads up on what is coming. Thanks and keep up the good work.

    Uncle Larry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: