In last week’s Gospel, after Jesus performed the great miracle feeding a hungry crowd with only five loaves and two fish, the people wanted to make him king. Now Jesus had come in order to establish a kingdom, and performed this miracle as a sign of his kingship. Nevertheless, he didn’t let them make him king. Instead, he escaped the crowd and went into the mountains.
They had made a mistake; they missed the meaning of his miracle, seeing it only in worldly terms. They wanted this king who would provide food and economic prosperity, but that was not the kind of kingdom Jesus came to establish.
We continue to make this mistake today, because we look for the “king” (or the system of political government) that will do what Jesus did: miraculously provide the people all their human needs. When people don’t have pensions, government must provide social security. When people don’t have enough money for food, government must provide foodstamps. When people don’t have a roof, government must provide subsidized housing. When a single mother can’t afford education, government must provide a scholarship. When the hurricane destroys the city, government must provide funds to rebuild it. When mortgage companies and auto industries fail, government must bail them out. When people don’t have insurance, government must provide universal healthcare…
It’s not that government (the “king”) doesn’t have a role to support and provide necessary infrastructure for society, but when the government actually assumes the role of providing and taking care of all the needs, government has become the Savior. The name of this form of government is socialism. It is condemned by the Church, but unfortunately, it is where we are headed. (emphasis is mine B)
By escaping the crowd, Jesus was telling them that is not the sort of kingdom and kingship (i.e. government) the people should seek. The truth is, a government cannot be a savior. Jesus can perform a miracle by feeding a hungry crowd because he is the savior, he is divine, and he can bring bread from heaven.
But unlike Jesus, government has to take funds away from one group in order to provide these things for another group: Taxation! The “bread” provided by the government actually comes from your neighbor, not from heaven! It seems like government welfare and assistance programs imitate Jesus and fulfill the precepts of Christianity to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and house the homeless.
But actually they end up making the problems worse, because they 1) burden the true providers, 2) take away rights, and 3) responsibilities.
Socialist bureaucracy is by nature inefficient and wasteful. For example: in this country, we say public education is “free.” Actually, it costs more than double the amount to educate a child in a public school as a private Catholic school, and we provide a better education. The costs of a government program are always higher than the same program being offered in the competitive private sector.
Because socialism takes from Peter to give to Paul, it always sets up a vicious circle of taxation and borrowing that gets worse. Today’s social security checks are taken from the social security funds of today’s workers, and the system is headed to bankruptcy in a few years. Already, there is a 15% tax on every dollar just to pay for social security, not to mention the other taxes: income tax, sales tax, etc. Besides social security, this year our government had to borrow $1.5 trillion to provide all the current services and bailouts it provides, which means future generations will still be paying for the things we are getting now; and is the government going to still provide them the same services? And now on top of everything the healthcare legislation is looking to add another tax on every dollar to provide “free” healthcare. That will greatly affect an operation such as ours, for instance, Christ the King parish and school.
This is the trap of socialism: it burdens the people in order to help them. Jesus would never do such a thing! Jesus can and does bring bread from heaven for the hungry, government only takes bread from Peter to give it to Paul. Socialism sounds good, but it is the opposite of what government should do.
Government cannot be the savior. People always help people, not programs. Government must establish a system of laws that allow people to help each other, but government must not take over the rights and responsibilities of people to take care of themselves and each other.
Besides burdening the citizens, socialism takes away the right and responsibility of people to take care of their own needs, and imposes its own agenda against their will. For instance, government tells people what they can and can’t teach in a public school. If the people of a school district are Christian and vote to have Christmas and Easter parties, and teach their children about their Biblical and Christian heritage, they should be free to do so. It’s their own tax dollars! We used to be able to do this. Socialism takes away rights.
In the more extreme socialist governments, such as China, government goes to far as mandate only one child per family. All the services provided by the government are free, but they will only cover one child. So if you get pregnant a second time, you have to have an abortion. Can you imagine?
This is why we need to be opposed to government taking over healthcare. Soon it will be deciding who gets what medical services, and how the funds are rationed. It’s unavoidable: with socialism the government decides for you exactly what you can and can’t do. People lose freedom and the right to choose.
In addition, socialism takes away responsibility, because the government becomes the provider and parent instead of the family. If you think about it, most government programs are fulfilling the roles that used to be done by the father and provider of the family. Socialism undermines the family unit, encourages the “dead-beat dad” syndrome, and ends up socializes parenting! All of a sudden, “society” is raising the kids, kids are in school or daycare all day, and parents have less and less time to form their children. That’s because they’re both having to work since they are not only paying their household bills but also the huge bills of the government.
So we can understand why Jesus would not let them make him king. His miracle was a sign of something else, it was not the kind of government he intends to establish. In today’s Gospel, Jesus again speaks to the crowd who wanted to make him king the day before. It is the next day, and they find him on the other side of the lake, back in Capernaum, and they wonder how he got there so fast.
Jesus tells them, “Amen I tell you, you’re not looking for me because you saw a sign of God’s Kingdom; you are looking for me because I filled you with loaves of bread.” He’s very upset with them: “Do not work for food that perishes, but rather for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Jesus knows that as long as we are in this world, we are going to have hunger, sickness, suffering. Sure we might be able to take care of some needs today – we can feed a homeless person this week; we can go to the hospital and get healed for some ailment this time – but what about next week or next year. That homeless person is going to be hungry again, we are going to get sick again, and eventually we will get to the point where nothing will help anymore. We are going to have to face the limitations of fallen human nature, our mortality, our death. Do you think the savior government will help us at that point? Yes it will; it will hasten our way out!
No, Jesus knows in this world we will have the cross. What he brings is something new and different. His Kingdom is not of this world, which is passing away. Even though we still live in this tired and corrupted world with all its problems, we must already start living in the new world that he brings, with the new life he brings. Unlike the food we get from healthcare/welfare, which satisfies us today but leaves us hungry and debt-ridden tomorrow, Jesus gives us food that will satisfy for all eternity: “Do not work for food that perishes, but rather for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
The people are thrilled: “Sir, give us this bread always!” But Jesus knows they still don’t understand, they’re still thinking in terms of flesh and blood, in terms of life in this world. So Jesus tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
This is what we need to be looking for, working for, trying to achieve. And this is what a wise and good government should be helping its citizens to find: the real bread that will take away hunger, the bread of Jesus Christ. At one point, our American government was such a government. It was established on the premise that people can practice religion without government interference. It knew that it didn’t have the answers but that people would find the answers through their faith, specifically Christianity. It knew its job was not to interfere in that pursuit by imposing a particular brand of Christianity, but allow people to engage in that pursuit freely. What made America great was that unlike so many other places, it knew it wasn’t the savior, and that people had to find their savior.
Today unfortunately, government sees itself as the savior, and we the citizens do too, we have caused the problem. It is scary: govt now resents the idea that citizens would look to their Christian faith, to Jesus Christ, as their savior. It resents the idea of religious people in any way critiquing its agenda. It doesn’t want a Catholic school system competing with its schools. It doesn’t want a Catholic hospital system that refuses to perform abortions and euthanasia.
As Christians living in such a society, we have an urgent duty to bring reform and transformation. We must not fall into the trap of the crowd who wanted to make Jesus an earthly “sugar-daddy” king. Socialism is evil. We need to be careful about politicians and programs that promise to take care of our needs, and examine what it is going to cost us in return, not just in terms of higher taxes, but also in terms of freedoms sacrificed. We must not promote programs that take away or supplant the responsibilities of parents, especially the father, to provide for his family and offspring.
Above all, we must look for candidates and legislation that understands the truth of today’s Gospel: “Do not work for food that perishes, but rather for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” A socialist government makes its citizens work for the bread that satisfies today but leaves them hungry again tomorrow. And it makes them work very hard indeed, for the government to be able to provide this “free” bread to everyone.
People must work and labor not for the government, but for God. Jesus tells us what our true labor should be: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.” This should be the real priority of our society: Faith and religion. We wouldn’t have these problems today, if we actually returned to these words.
Thanks and a tip of the beret once again to my friend Byron who contributed this to me for my blog.