Social justice is not an element of the Catholic faith that can be conveniently discarded. The outreach of our Lord insures that the proclamation of the Good News will always include caring about the needs and rights of others. While the Church would not condemn hard work and profit, the person is always measured as having primary value or worth in all human transactions. The more one has, the greater is the responsibility to those who have little or nothing. Poverty is not reflective of the curse and divine justice. Rather, in the Judeo-Christian mindset, those in poverty are an opportunity for those with some degree of wealth to witness a charity that pleases God. Divine judgment targets those who close their eyes to the hurting and the poor.
Today, Asian sweatshops and local jobs that pay a non-livable wage are instances of exploitation. It translates the message that some people matter more than others and that certain people have no importance at all. We see this mentality in poor-paying jobs, angry rhetoric toward immigrants and migrant workers, and consciences numb to the dignity of life in euthanasia and abortion, especially in light of dollars and cents. Once a price-tag is attached to human life… we begin to live a lie and forget that in the eyes of God all life has an incommensurate value.
Too often a greater attachment or importance is given to profits over the message of mercy from the prophets. History is riddled with injustice. The scales that weigh coins are fixed. The poor are forced to make do with junk and the refuse of the wheat for their bread. The world has not changed much. Just look at the street people who search dumpsters for food. Even those who claim to care about the poor are often motivated by a politics and giving that enslaves future generations in poverty and dependence. The poor are easily manipulated and that is precisely where people with power want them.
The message from Scripture is frequently that of a reversal. The wealthy will be brought down and the poor will be raised up. “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes…” I have spoken before about how this admonition from the Psalms is realized in Christ where we are all anointed into the royal household of God. The reversal begins with a young handmaid called Mary who cries, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”