“If only all the people of God were prophets and He gave his Spirit to them all”, the first reading says. That kind of prophecy is seen in James’ condemnation of rich who exploit the poor. Similarly Christ condemns those who give scandal to the young. Lets confess ways we fail in concern for the vulnerable.
In modern life have we lost our sense of responsibity to those around us, especially those in need of any kind? Rather than caring concern for our neighbours, is exploitation of them for profit or self-gratification, such as James condemns, the norm today? Certainly, the old values of hospitality seem to be fading in towns and cities where many hardly know their neighbour. As a priest I once served in a large town; and visiting in the big estates I was shocked find how many confessed to not knowing those who lived next door. Security may exclude open houses now but there’s no excuse for uncaring, shutting ourselves off from all around us. Even in our homes we may fail to spot the child who is having a hard time in school or the teenager who is taking drugs; I think of that film “Traffic”, where the man chosen by the president to lead a war one drugs, doesn’t know his daughter is an addict. Our human and Christian duty remains, to know and love our neighbour even if it requires extra effort today.
But do we make that effort now? Recently, we were all shocked by the case in Anerica of the man who kept women locked up for many years to serve his lusts. Yet neighbors somehow didn’t see what was going on next door to them. We don’t want to pry into our neighbor’s business of course, but when someone is in need next door to us, its our duty to do something. The “I’m all right Jack” view, I’m not my brother’s keeper, is the spirit of Cain.
Our readings warn of the spiritual emptiness of this view and pinpoints its cause in affluent isolationism. Our first reading sees the arrogant wealthy swapping open-hearted Godliness for the hard spirit of a money-mad world. St.James calls to account those living a life of luxury who ignore or oppress needy Neighbours. And Christ in that Gospel says that even a cup of water given to a needy person in his name will be rewarded. Also, a related theme, he calls us to protect the innocent. Those who scandalise his little ones should be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their necks. He pulls no punches. His words apply to the church today when bishops in palaces ignores abuse of the young. But we can also scandalise youth by sexual promiscuity, non-practice of the faith and uncaring. When I was chaplain to the Bons hospital I was inspired by the attitude of the nuns and lay staff. It was a good hospital because each patient was treated as a person. In a strange place they’d someone who cared about them.
Ireland was famous for such openheartedness once. Is that still the case? Maybe, but lets watch out. In big houses are we becoming too proud to open our hearts to neighbours. When I was young, our house was always open, not just for a cup of tea but for personal worries and family issues to be aired. We can’t roll back the clock, but we can still have homes where all are welcome and cherished. We must still have homes where little ones are protected against a world that exploits the weak, even on the internet. And at homes, spouses might be more than just two people living together. Some women say to me that their husband spends his time reading the paper. Husbands say, she’s great around the house but I feel like a stranger. With neighbour, workmate or children, wealth mustn’t replace human warmth. Lets always put people first. For worldly wealth passes and leaves us empty but Christ is lord of faith-filled caring hearts forever and ever, amen. So as God’s people, committed to open and caring hearts and homes, le profess our faith.
Prayers of the Faithful
And as God’s chidren lets pray to our heavenly Father for the things that we need to be his faithful people..
For church leaders, especially the Holy Father, that they may be caring pastors of their flock, protecting the innocent and bringing the boundless charity of Christ to all.
For our civil leaders that they may not be ruled wholly by cold economics but rule with integrity, and serve the needs of all the people, especially the poor, sick and vulnerable in society..
For ourselves; at home, in our work place and neighbourhood, mey we be the caring face of Christ to all, with open, loving and welcoming homes, hearts, and arms.
For our youth that they may realise that loving service of God and people is the road to happiness in this world and the next..
For the sick in our homes, among our close relatives, or in our neighbourhood that through our care and prayers they may come to know comfort, healing and the love of God..
For the dead that they may reap the reward of their charity in this life and through our prayers and continuing love and remembrance come safely to their heavenly home..
We ask these our prayers through the all-loving and caring Christ whose wounds intercede for us before the Father in heaven, amen.
When I was young, when one needed help the neighbours rallied round; gathering hay with rain pending, or at thrashings drawing sheaves and feeding them into the machine, or bagging the grain for storage. Stout, tea and cakes were passed around during breaks in the work. We came to see, as the poet says, that no man is an island. Lets rediscover that today too…Hail Mary.