Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday 26C: God urges gratitude for blessings, sharing with the poor

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "C") – September 26, 2010 "ALAS FOR THOSE WHO ARE AT EASE" [Texts: Amos 6:1, 4-7; [Psalm 146]; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31]

Every winter the frozen bodies of poor street people are found in Canada's urban centres. Often these tragedies happen near luxury hotels and centres of finance.

The first reaction of city residents is usually shock. How could this happen here? The sad story, one must admit, is a repetition of the tale of the Rich Man and Lazarus told by Jesus in today's gospel.

However, the Bible is consistent in taking the side of the poor. Evenhandedly, it criticizes the people of Amos' day and the Rich Man's family.

For preoccupation with consuming goods and enjoying affluence tends to make wealthy people indifferent to the plight of the poor nearby. Yet, the God of compassion asks that those who have been blessed go out of themselves--as He does--to the needy. Disciples are asked to share the divine agenda by championing the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the orphan and widow (see today's psalm).

The complexity of modern-day life means that the response of Christians to the needs of those on the margins of society will be varied. For example, as citizens Catholics propose strategies to assist the large number of street people in difficult straits.

Indeed, thoughtful disciples of Jesus propose ways of helping them in a way that ensures the dignity each deserves. As individuals, believers get involved in their neighbourhood with those barely able to cope.

In this way, members of the faith community heed the warning which Jesus gave in his parable and escape the fate of the Rich Man. Such a path also fulfils the challenge given in baptism--that Christians be "saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle" (today's epistle).

The rich of Amos's day cared not for their kindred in the faith. The Rich Man who, like all good Jews, recognized Abraham as his father, unfortunately did not recognize Lazarus as his brother. His circle of interest did not extend beyond his five brothers.

At times, the global village can seem to put impossible demands on one's concern and resources. The Christian's reply, however, cannot be one of doing nothing. The gospel suggests that believers can begin to make the world a family home by extending their concern beyond the family unit.

God urged Israel to 'widen the space of your tent' (Isaiah 54:2). This is a good image of what it means to belong to God's family, to share God's home life.

Both the reading from Amos, the great prophet of social justice, and the Gospel parable urge believers to a responsible use of material goods instead of a mere consumption of goods and services, the lifestyle which increasingly typifies global or western societies.

John Paul II in his constant cautions against the sinfulness of consumerism points out the insidiousness of this evil. Consumer consumption leads to practical atheism--the refusal to heed God's will for one's life--and steels one's heart against the needs of others through self-centredness.

As foils to self-centred dispositions, biblical teaching constantly presents gratitude to God for what has been received from the divine bounty--whatever role one's labor may have played in the acquiring of such goods--and the sharing of them with the less fortunate. St. Paul's wise advice on how goods can be shared may be helpful here (cf. 2 Cor 8:13-15).

Often the collections which are a regular part of the Church's calendar seem disconnected from the liturgical themes of a given Sunday.

Today's collection for the "Needs of the Canadian Church", however, may be seen to be part of the challenge to mete out the riches of the gospel to those who have not heard it. Or of interpreting the social demands of a gospel-based faith for today.

These directions are typical of the functions carried out by staff of the Bishops Conference, who must research the social and spiritual needs of the Catholic people of Canada for their religious leaders. Besides material goods, of course, Canadian Catholics are invited to share their spiritual capital by prayer and labour to support and implement the policies of their bishops.

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