Well, yesterday we got a "Baltimore blizzard" (which means anything over 4 inches!), and things slowed down and/or shut down. I took the time to stay home and straighten my quarters, and as I did so I watched Disney's "Robin Hood." I figured that a tale of economic oppression and robbing the rich to help the poor would go very well these days.
At the beginning of the movie, Robin and Little John are chatting after a familiar heist, and John asks Robin if they are "good guys" or "bad guys" - what, with robbing and all. Robin responds by saying that they aren't "stealing"; they are merely "borrowing from those who can afford it."
"Borrowing," John smiles. "Boy, are we in debt!"
Now, there is no just reason for doing evil so that good may come of it. However, the tale of Robin Hood does prompt me to think about the traditional Catholic teaching about the meaning of wealth and possessions, in a Christian sense. The social teaching of the Church has held that while we have a right to private property, ultimately, all wealth is a gift from God. Furthermore, such gifts are given not for personal gain or aggrandizement; rather, they are given for the common good. What good can we do with what we have? By this line of thought, even the poor can participate in the building up of the Kingdom of God by assisting the common good. The nascent Church modeled this when "all things were held in common" (cfr. Acts 4:32).
We are all stewards of what we possess - responsible owners who are called to recognize the needs of others as we seek to promote this common good for all. As Little John recognized, we all are in debt - debt to the One who bestows blessings and gifts upon people with an Eye to see all people benefit. This is what is meant by communion; this is what the Church must be about; and ultimately, this is what can make society truly human. Possessing in a Christian sense simply means taking care of what we have while we have it, and passing it along when the good of others calls for it.
During these difficult economic times, there may be a temptation to clutch - to hang on to what little we have, since we don't know what the future holds. However, reaching out to those in need, those who suffer, those who are broken - this is what the common good entails. When others are excluded from this concern, that good cannot be "common." During Lent, we take as one of the hallmarks alms giving - care and support of the poor. May we not sacrifice the care that we are called to give and truly understand the meaning of the blessings God gives us all.
After all, we are really in Debt.