Watching Notre Dame in flames made me sick. I was so relieved when it survived as well as it did. I will admit, however, that my concern was more cultural and historical than religious. I hate to see something old and unique destroyed or damaged.
Instantly, it seems, donations started flooding in. At this point millions of dollars have have been pledged for the reconstruction and restoration efforts.
And there the controversies start. Complaints about how this money would be better spent helping people.
Part of me hears Judas saying “This money should have been given to the poor.” Another part hears Jerry Clower’s joke about Uncle Ledbetter complaining “we don’t need to spend this money on no chandelier as bad as we need lights in the church!”
Everyone has an agenda, often informed by ignorance.
Probably the best thing to come out of all of this is the funds being donated to rebuild three historic black churches in Louisiana, the victims of terrorist arson attacks.
Regardless of what value we may place on the rebuilding of Notre Dame the critics do bring up a good point. Why is there money that can be given away for a building but not for people in need?
The Church has an economic problem. Not the economy of dollars, but the economy of grace.
In the Catholic system there is an economy of saving grace that flows from the apostles to the bishops to the priests to the people in the form of sacraments. I believe, however, grace flows freely from God to everyone. It rains down and puddles up around our feet and we collect it in buckets.
But we are not good about sharing it.
At least in the West we have been corrupted by the economy of the market to the point it has disrupted the economy of the cross.
We hold back our means because we believe the market’s virtues about deserving and earning and working hard to get yours. We have lost the virtues of the cross that say we are undeserving, that grace is freely given, and that it is the gift of God alone.
There is plenty in this world. Plenty of food, water, medicine, and money for everyone. The problem is not scarcity of resources. The problem is the system of distribution. We are market driven and not grace driven.
According to the Pew Research Group in 2010 about one third of all the people on Earth claim to be Christians. In the US the number is closer to 70%.
With those numbers, an a mind set of grace, we can easily rebuild cultural icons and rural churches and make sure everyone goes to bed with a full belly, healthy, and safe.
But only if we let Grace rule our lives.