Sunday, November 17, 2019
Fish and the Fish Tank
In the Eyes of the Believer column of the Catholic Times a Jesuit professor of sociology gives us a meditation on a fish tank and asks the readers: Have you ever raised fish? You have water, various fish, plants and food. How do you keep the fish from getting sick? He gives us three things to do.
First, fish in the tank should be given the right amount of food regularly. If you have a variety of fish, large and small, and food is scarce, only the big and strong ones will eat, and sometimes the big ones will eat the small ones. Secondly, there are other things in the tank such as plants, sand, gravel, motors, lights, and so on, and how used is important. Thirdly the water above all must be good. If there is a lot of excrement and moss in the water the beneficial bacteria will be less and ammonia will be generated and the water murky.
For these fishes to live well, one has to have concern for the whole fish tank. It's not enough to be concerned only with the fish. Our human society is similar to the fish in the tank! For each person to live healthily and happily, we must consider and improve the overall social environment of society.
First, to become a human society, we do not follow the law of the jungle where the weak become the food of the strong but a society where nourishment, proper food, goods, jobs, and opportunities are provided fairly. Today, the neoliberal economic system, as Karl Polanyi points out, gives primacy to the market and profit to an extreme, rather than "human society," justifying the survival of the fittest and polarizing society. Pope Francis stresses frequently, precisely because of this, we need to be wary of the neoliberal dictatorship.
Second, the social system like the devices in the fish tank must work together. If some laws and institutions are only beneficial to some and harmful to the powerless and marginated these laws and institutions must constantly be evaluated and reformed based on universal human rights and the common good.
Third, just as the water in the fish tank has to be fit for the fish to live so also in our personal lives the environment in which we live has to promote a healthy daily life. In a culture that benefits greed, domination, comparisons, competition, discrimination, and aversion, it is difficult to seek understanding, consideration, cooperation with others. Persons who are hurt in this culture are left to survive and find healing and are easily caught in the trap of individualism.
Our church has confessed that the stressing in the past salvation of one's own soul, we were forgetting the community and the mission of evangelizing. Those who wanted to see a change in society and worked towards that end were seen as communists.
However, what God wants to save is not only myself but all of us. "God loved this world so much that He sent His only Son," says John (3:16). A merciful Creator takes care of the entire fishbowl and wants all the fish to be healthy. The Second Vatican Council also emphasizes the fact that God offers holiness and salvation to God's people (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church # 9).
Christ, symbolized by the fish since the early church, sacrificed himself for the purification of the world and the salvation of all human beings. Our church must follow Jesus and be faithful in our mission of evangelization. We Christians pray not only for the salvation and success of ourselves and families, but we must pray that this society, where everyone lives together as the Creator desires, will be purified and become a more just and peaceful world.