By Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.
Evolutionary scientists say that the human stomach has a high acidity level, which helps in digesting food and filtering the microbes that get into organ. When we are stressed out, acid is overproduced by the stomach and we find it difficult to tolerate. The excess acid is dumped into the small intestine and may reflux back to the stomach. This creates a very uncomfortable, painful, and burning sensation.
Hyperacidity, which often results in various kinds of stomach ulcers and often manifests through nausea, nervousness, compulsion, and anger, afflicts both the rich and the poor. A rumbling, grunting stomach has become the great equalizer. The high-nosed entrepreneur, the wealth-driven executive, the status-seeking yuppie, the power-hungry politician, and the profit-hunting salesman have something in common with the starving beggar — a vulnerable stomach.
Many poor people, for instance, develop a noisy, grumbling stomach not because they have nothing to eat, but because they want to have the right disadvantage. Hunger somehow justifies their habitual sense of dependency, and their perverse delight in being a social problem. Thus we see many urban poor working up all sorts of angst and anxiety for situations that are beyond their control, while neglecting or aggravating those that are within their power to address.
True, Our Lord Jesus Christ said “Blessed are the poor,” but He did not thereby make poverty a part of an activist’s armor. The “poor” in the Beatitudes is not the person who is disadvantaged for lack of material resources. He is one who has freely divested himself of the fear of losing whatever he possesses. Since he does not consider his possessions as his own, he does not fear losing them. For, how can you lose something which you never considered as yours?
The rich and the ambitious also suffer from the adverse effects of hyperacidity. St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote that “no man can live without pleasure, so if a person deprives himself of higher pleasures, he will go scavenging for the less wholesome kind.” This insight gives us a clue why many of the rich and the famous, despite their overflowing money and wealth, often complain of sore stomach. Food is not their problem for they have this in abundance.
What causes their ulcer-inducing depression, sense of emptiness, neurotic fear of failure, insecurity, and obsession with power, is their mindless pursuit of satisfaction. They spend their waking hours gorging themselves with pleasures that money can buy, forgetting to nourish their spirit, thus causing a personality vacuum. Since nature hates a vacuum, their baser instincts and irrational fears rush in to fill up the emptiness.
If you think religious people are exempt from hyperacidity, think again. Even those who declare their faith in the Almighty can have sore stomachs because they are often disappointed with God, or with what some preachers made of Him. Televangelists who peddle a “prosperity or wealth and success gospel,” promising people that if they only have “enough faith,” they can be rich, healthy, and happy, are setting them up for a big letdown. Their slogan “Name it and claim it!” is based on a perverted doctrine that God is a cosmic jukebox in the sky that plays the right music if we insert the right coin.
Pharmaceutical firms have produced various forms of antacids but hyperacidity will continue to be one of our perennial afflictions until we eradicate its main cause: Our relentless and mindless pursuit for pleasure that satisfies for a while then leaves us emptier and lonelier than ever.
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