Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“It is more difficult to fight poverty in a rich country than in a poor one.”

“Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.” ~ Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mt 19,23-30):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

What's wrong with being rich? Experience shows us that the more we have, the more energy it takes to maintain the wealth we have. And, it inevitably happens that the more we have, the more we want. And, sadly, the more we have, the more it seems we think we deserve what we have. Of course, there are outstanding exceptions. There are wealthy people who are incredibly generous and who work hard for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, that isn't the way it always works.

I find myself most challenged by how Jesus asks us, later in Matthew's gospel, Chapter 25:41-46, to live. It is our mission to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and care for the sick and imprisioned. That is how we will be judged. It is stunning to me sometimes to realize that much of what I think is important, much of what troubles me, much of what takes up so much of my time, has nothing to do with caring for "the least" of Jesus' brothers and sisters. Too often the "riches" of talents and energies and our place in the world so insulate us from the day to day life and struggle of the poor that we can be seduced into the path that leads to pride, rather than the holy and simplifying path that leads to humility.

There is an outstanding summary of Catholic Social Teaching for our day - well worth reading in its entirety, as a meditation, with amazing relevance for the challenges of today. It is the great economic pastoral, written by the U.S. Catholic Bishops 25 years ago this year.

Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy
U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986 http://www.osjspm.org/economic_justice_for_all.aspx

Lord, guide us, each in our own situation, to be freer to serve you and your people. With you, all things are possible, so we entrust ourselves and our world to your care today. You cannot have willed such a horrible gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. Your desire must be for the greater care and dignity of all your people, around the world. Help us to find a way for your Kingdom to come and your will to be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. And, simplify my heart, so I can even experience some of the dishonor and humiliation that the poor so often experience, so that I may know the humility that will draw me to your own compassionate heart.

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