Monday, December 1, 2014

Avoiding the 'Temptation to Superficiality'

Recently in a wealthy area of Seoul, a security guard at an apartment complex, set himself on fire because of the  humiliation he received from a resident. He later died and ostensibly the firing came about because of the end of the contract, but the labor union said the suicide so disgraced the apartment community that at  one of their meetings they decided to change the subcontractor who hired the security guards. This brought  about the  retaliatory notice of the firing of 78 security guards. 

In the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly the  columnist mentions how devastating this is to the individuals and families at this time of year. Without the experience of being fired, he says, it is difficult for us to even imagine what is happening to these workers. When the security guard attempted suicide many of the other guards knew harm would come to them, which was the case. The writer knows it is not the Church's work to solve all the problems of society, but he is disappointed that not even a small attempt to side with the fired workers was shown.

He agrees with the activists who are working to better society, but wonders if they are not just interested in big events and not concerned with the smaller human rights infractions. He is in complete agreement with the efforts to make know the injustices in society, to stress human dignity, and work for the progress of society and the citizens' welfare, but he feels that they are aiming too high, and forgetting the smaller injustices in society: forgetting those like the 78 security guards who may be out of work shortly.

On  Pope Francis'  trip to Korea the pope mentioned  in his talk to the Asian bishops  to beware of the "temptation to the superficial". Bishop Kang  explained this in one of his talks as being concerned about the kind of smartphone you are using, what car you are riding, what hand bag you have and forgetting the important things in life. Giving oneself over to superficialities and losing the real happiness one should have in life. 

Should not those in the Church working in social pastoral ministry of the Church beware of the 'temptation to the superficial'?  Accepted by certain public groups and the  press, should not  blind one to the basics of the social ministry. The columnist mentions certain events that claim the limelight and interest of many, but forgotten are the small works in helping the poor and the alienated in society.

One of the bishops recently in his diocesan meeting of the priests requested strongly the following:  From now on no more  bouquets of flowers when he visits the parishes, no banners to welcome him, no lines  waiting to greet him, no special table for the bishop, he will eat the same as the parishioners.  And next year, he said, 5 percent decrease in all the different programs of the diocese to take some of the financial pressure off the parishioners.

In response to the bishop's entreaty the priests decided to raise the money allotted to the poor from their personal monies from 40 thousand dollars to about 80 thousand. This is one of the first steps to change the 'temptation to the superficial' and to act on what the Pope was hoping, and the bishops in their own meeting have decided to do. Our columnist hopes this is the start of what will happen in all the dioceses.