Posted by: owizblog | November 6, 2013

Thought For The Day, BBC Radio Scotland, 6 November 2013

A couple of years ago, a group of scientists siezed an opportunity. Earth and Mars, trundling round the sun, are moving into an alignment that opens a launch window for a mission to reach the Red Planet in September 2014. A Mars Probe is big news anyway – but this one was launched by the Indian Space Agency.

It’s no surprise that India, a rapidly developing nation, is able to do this. But she has monumental problems of desperate poverty. How, folk ask, can such a society justify spending money on a space programme?

Strikingly, the chief executive of Oxfam in India is a staunch defender. India is an emerging economy; a chorus of voices argue that this sort development lifts a whole society, technologically, industrially and economically. And the forty million pounds cost of this project is, frankly, peanuts in space tech terms.  But still… All that poverty…

John’s Gospel tells of old friends together at a supper party. There have been evenings like this before, and only two people realize that this is different. It’s a passing alignment which won’t happen again.  Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, Good Friday, death. A window of opportunity has opened, and will close very shortly. Mary, Martha’s sister, takes a flask of expensive perfume and shatters it, symbolically anoints Jesus’ feet, marks the moment…

And a venal, small-minded voice pipes up. “What a waste. That could have been sold, and the money given to the poor.” Jesus answers: “The poor are always with you.” “You could always be helping them. Always be addressing their needs. This isn’t about that, this isn’t what’s stopping you.”

We could effortlessly resource the lifting of the poor out of their poverty. But we don’t.  Why not? Why aren’t the poor our priority? Isn’t that a much better, profounder question than “Why is there an Indian space programme?”

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