“If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”
What a timeless sentiment in Moses’ prayer in this Sunday’s first reading (ex 34:4b-6, 8-9). Although spoken high on a mountain as remote from us as the day he prayed it, it’s equally applicable in any situation for people who disagree with each other in this time and place.
I just came back from a town where having a stiff neck is a requirement: Washington, DC. I was covering a business event where manufacturing CEOs were strategizing on how to convince their representatives in Washington to draft legislation that would drop trade barriers they say are making it difficult for US companies to compete in world markets. The name of the event these businesspeople used as the premise for their meeting? National Forklift Safety Day! The association representing these CEOs believed that by leading off their meetings with the politicians by stressing the physical safety of industry’s workers rather than the fiscal security of their companies, they could gain some common ground on the slippery slope of free trade.
But this strategy isn’t much different from the one Paul recommends to the Corinthians in our second reading (2 cor 13:11-13):
“Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
I don’t know how much kissing went on in Washington that day among CEOs and politicos, but this attitude of corporate citizenship isn’t just an ice breaking ploy in 21st century business. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that success in global markets isn’t just about money. It depends on how people do business. The article reported that more and more companies listed in the S&P 500 economic index tout social and humanitarian issues, like the way they reduced waste, operate safely and respect human rights.
Their motive? Maybe it’s profit. But maybe in the process of making a profit this way they’ll become 21st century prophets and eventually the readers of the Wall Street Journal will start connecting the dots between the two similar sounding words and follow that path of dots to where the Spirit leads them. They can get hope from Sunday’s gospel reading (jn 3:16-18):
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
If the Wall Street Journal is right, maybe necks of people in power positions are loosening up sufficiently to enable a soul-saving look within.