by Bill Scholl
Over 30 adolescents gather in St. Patrick’s cafeteria for their weekly catechism class. There’s a game this evening, a sure-fire way to learn about church teaching with an unlikely tool: m&ms. The room is ready.
Each young Catholic is dealt a card — in a not-so-random fashion. The prizes are announced: gift cards for movies, iTunes, coffeehouses, etc. The rules are read.
Those blessed to receive face cards are “royalty” and the lucky nine are ushered to one side. There are 10 prizes and the cost to purchase each prize is 18 m&ms. Royalty are each given a bag containing twenty-two of the valuable candies, and the rest of the class is only given two each. Royalty can do what they want with their m&ms and can purchase a prize at anytime. The “poor” may plead with the royalty to share, but only on bended knee to simulate the humiliation the poor often feel.
The game begins. Seven of the royalty promptly go up and purchase their prizes, giving their leftovers to the “poor.” One girl gives her bag to a “poor” friend. Another boy gives away all his candy to the “poor” as they ask.
A few “poor” kids hustle and manage to raise enough candy-capital to buy a prize. More than a few kids just eat or give away their resources and then sit quietly, hopelessly disengaged.
The game is designed to reflect our human nature and present Christ’s Gospel challenge to that nature. The social teaching of the church stands on two legs: charity and justice. Charity in concerned with love in the immediate needs of persons — in this case, the need for m&ms. Justice is concerned with practicing love in complex situations — in this case, following the rules of the game.
Some discussion follows: The “poor” quickly share how unfair the game is while the “royalty,” distracted by their booty, take a long while to agree. After all, every one of the “rich” practices some charity, most, giving what they had left over. However, upon reflection, most agree that this kind of charity is not enough. After some discussion, the youth conclude that our Catholic call to love our neighbor compels us to not only do charity, but also to do justice. And that means making the rules fair.
As adults, how are you “playing” the game and using the resources you’ve been given? Do you just accept the rules, while being nice and sharing your leftovers? Or do you strive to bring God’s love into the structures of your life: your politics, your finances, your spheres of influence?
Truly, this is a hard question, and one only answered with the help of Christ’s grace. If you’d like to ask these questions in your parish, my office would be blessed to help.