Father Henri Boulad, born in 1931, is an Egyptian Jesuit in the Melkite rite. He studied in France and in the United States and since 2004 has been rector of the Holy Family College in Cairo. He has devoted his life to the impoverished Christians and Muslims in the region and is now involved with Caritas. He is the author of some thirty books that have been published in 15 languages and gives conferences throughout the world. His motto is: Change the world. Father Boulad attended our Week of Study and Annual Congress in Rougemont, Canada held from September 22 to 29, 2019. (See his reflections after this week of study on page 8.) Here is a translation of his sermon at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Lambert, Quebec, near Montreal, on September 18, 2016.
by Father Henri Boulad, SJ
We are nearing elections that will be heatedly fought in the United States: Trump vs. Clinton. The same is happening in France; although I do not know the names of the candidates, but it makes no difference whether they be of the left, the right or the centre… Do you still believe in any of this? I have come to realize that in the end, all of this is rotten, corrupted and sold out to money — money will be the topic of today’s homily.
Money has corrupted the world; it stands behind political regimes, behind the rulers’ ascent and fall from power. It stands behind economic systems. It stands behind revolutions and wars, including the so-called revolutions fought in the name of democracy and human rights.
The world is ruled by money. It took me a while to figure it out: there are the left and right factions behind the progressives, behind the Islamists; behind all systems that claim to hold themselves to great principles there is the power of money that can afford to buy all things today. And who pays the price? The meek, the poor, the commoner.
Have you noticed in today’s first reading the revolt of the prophet Amos, the Old Testament’s prophet of social justice, the one who thumped on the table? Listen to him:
“Hear this, you that crush the poor, and make the needy of the land to fail, saying: When will the month be over, and we shall sell our wares: and the sabbath, and we shall open the corn: that we may lessen the measure, and increase the sicle, and may convey in deceitful balances, That we may possess the needy for money, and the poor for a pair of shoes, and may sell the refuse of the corn?” (Amos 8:4-6)
Yes, the world is sold to money. Only a small elite profit, pull the strings, negotiate and gain billions while the poor barely manage to get by. My thoughts go to Caritas in Egypt where I have toiled for many years. A woman who works in one of our kindergartens came to my office and told me:
— Father, we cannot take it anymore!
— How much do you earn?
— 570 Egyptian pounds per month. (A little less than $100 CAN.)
— Do you have any children?
— I have three.
— How long have you worked here?
— For the last 15 years. (Prices are nearly the same in Egypt as they are in Canada.)
I jump to my feet. I am boiling inside. What is behind all this? First there were the Muslims, now the progressives. In one country, the left ruled, then the right and the left again. I can see that this is leading nowhere and that we are being manipulated.
You know what measures are taken to keep prices high? Tons of wheat are burned to maintain prices while people go hungry. Milk by the millions of liters is dumped into the sea and rivers.
How long will this world remain sold to the money powers? How long will the large international trusts, the financial sharks, exploit society, all societies, not to mention remote-controlled wars devised from scratch?
We see a dictator and cry out: “Let’s take him down!” We brought down Saddam Hussein. Then what? We have had chaos in Iraq for the last ten years or more, misery, catastrophe and exile. It was said: “There is another dictator, Bachar el-Assad in Syria” — and here in this church sits a Syrian woman who was a victim — and so we waged war on Bachar el-Assad.
This is not to say that these dictators were angels. We removed one demon to replace him by seven others worse than he.
Wars are declared. What purpose does the Syrian war serve? That a pipeline might be built from Qatar to Turkey; for this Syria must be subdued. The regime must be overthrown, a war must be waged, weapons must be sold and people must die: at first 10,000 dead, then 50 and 100 thousand. Later, there were 200,000 dead and still later there were 300,000 dead, in Syria, my homeland.
Nowadays, human beings no longer have any value. People have lost all value and in Northern Iraq and Syria, human beings are being sold. We thought that slavery was a thing of the past. It is now practiced in marketplaces. Today, girls are sold for $35 to $135 each! Today, for money.
We could make the words of Amos ours today. We need prophets like he to slap their hand on a table, to protest against things, to take to the streets, to shout: “It’s enough! Enough is enough!”
With what can we oppose these evils? There is the message of Jesus, a message of love and sharing. And there is man.
At the center of our decaying society, there is money. At the center of the Gospel, there is the human being, love, respect and justice. The Church is now in complete disarray but things will begin anew, I promise you, we are already on an ascending path. We are responsible for building the Church of tomorrow differently but based on the same Gospel and on the same message.
The only power that can resist this fraud is the Gospel and the Church. It has no army, no planes, no armoured vehicles and no weapons. The Church has nothing but her moral weight... but what weight!
I remember giving a conference on Development and Demography, in 1994, in Cairo at a UN international Congress. During the presentations, participants would go for a coffee at the cafeteria, to eat a sandwich, talk or chat. All of a sudden, a message was heard over the P.A. system announcing that the representative of the Holy See would speak next. Everyone left their coffee and their sandwiches and returned to the hall and it became filled in no time. When the smallest state in the world speaks, when the Vatican or the Pope speaks, everyone listens.
The only entity that has sufficient moral weight in the world today is the Catholic Church. This is why her enemies want her destroyed. Behind the systematic persecution of the Church, of the churches and Christians throughout the world, lies money. The Church must be demolished because it stands fast; it refuses to capitulate.
This is why I say NO! I have just turned 85 and I have another 35 years to go [laughter from the congregation erupts]. Yes, I believe this since it is the Lord who has told me. And I will fight till my last breath. I beseech you, this very morning, to enlist in the same fight. Only one thing matters.
Your cats and dogs are all very nice. Your songbirds, your pet birds and the like are all fine. I have nothing against them, but there are more important matters in the world.
I read a piece in the daily Metro about someone in Australia who owned an 11 cm. fish that swallowed a pebble. The fish was sedated and had surgery performed on it at a cost of $500.
I have nothing against fish, cats, dogs and other animals. I like them all. But let’s look beyond to see what is going on. Let us open our eyes.
So, today, we must make Amos’ cry our own and tell ourselves: “We will establish a new society to counter this corrupt society. The Church is a counter-society and we must invent this new society to counter the power of money, corruption and injustice which pervades the world today. The Gospel will prevail. Christ will prevail. He told us on the eve of His passion, His death and apparent defeat: “In the world you shall have distress. But have confidence. I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Amen.