This Sunday continues the theme of materialism and greed as the enemies of godliness. Amos condemns the lavish sprawlers who are indifferent to the poor, and Christ’s tale of Dives and Lazarus has the same message. Lets confess ways we too ignore the poor..
“You can’t serve God and money”. We’ve an example of this in today’s story of the Dives brothers and the poor man who died at their gate. A modern story also shows this. A Dublin man parked a new Mercedes in the city. When he came back he found a poor boy examining it with envy. “Is that your car”, the boy asked. “Yes”, he replied. “Its beautiful, how much did you pay for it”, the boy said. “To be honest I don’t know”, the man replied, “it was a present from my brother”. “You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn’t cost a penny”, the boy said. “I wish that I..” The man was sure the boy would say, “I wish I had a brother like that”. But he said, “I wish I could be a brother like that”, he wanted to give not receive. The man concluded: “There was I with a new Mercedes and there was the boy in rags. Yet he’d more love in his heart than I had”. Mother Theresa used to say that we get more from the poor than we could ever give.
That’s our gospel. Love, openness and generosity are our real riches. Sadly, in an increasingly affluent world, more and more risk becoming like the Dives brothers, too busy planning the next big booze-up to even see the needy. Even when Lazarus died and was taken away like a piece of refuse, it made no difference to the Dives. Lets enjoy affluence, there’s no virtue in poverty, but lets beware lest it make us hard of heart. Mother Theresa says: “the terrible evil in the world today is lack of love – the indifference towards one’s neighbor which is so widespread”.
A story she tells makes the point well. Once in Bombay there was a big conference on poverty. Outside the door where hundreds of delegates were “solving” the hunger problem, she found a dying man. She took him to her home for the dying. He died there. He died of hunger while the people inside were talking about how in fifteen years we’d have so much food, so much of this, so much of that. The lesson’s clear. Sending a few pounds to Sudan is good, but it won’t help the old person a few doors from us dying of loneliness. Charity at a distance is easy and often hypocritical. The western world salves its conscience with occasional aid to poor nations. In reality for every euro we give, we take out nine in debt payments to our banks. Its voluntary workers on the ground who make the real difference. I’m sure the Dives brothers solved all the world’s problems over their lavish meals, while their brother at the gate wanted just crumbs to stay alive.
That is, charity starts at home. We must walk the walk as well as talk the talk: Help the single mother next door who needs someone trustworthy to care for the baby while she’s out at work; Or the relative with a big family struggling with a mortgage; Or the old person next door who needs someone to pop in to see that they’re Ok. Acts of kindness at home or in community cost little but can make a huge difference to the refugee or traveller who needs acceptance but we’re too snobbish to give them recognition.
As Christians we must have hearts open to needs around us. I say we, for priests are no different. Christ reminds us all that at last we’ll be judged by our active charity. I hope he’ll be able to say to me: “come possess the kingdom..for I was hungry and you gave me to eat etc”. For the world adores the rich, famous and powerful but Christ is lord of love, compassion and kindness for both our happiness in this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s hands helping the needy, let’s profess our faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
And as the people of God lets pray for our own needs.
For the Pope and the bishops, that abandoning their palaces, they may get down among the needy world as an example to the world.
For civil leaders that in their concern for economics they may not lose sight of their larger duty to improve the lot of all the people of the nation, especially the poor and underprivileged
For our youth that many may be inspired to give some of their time serving such as the Vincent De Paul or as volunteers to serve the poor in famine stricken areas abroad..
Four ourselves in our homes, communities and areas that we may have some time for some charitable work with the needy..
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the oppressed in body, mind or soul that through our love and care they may know God’s love..
For the dead that our charity towards them may continue in our prayers and ongoing remembrance..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ our lord of overflowing love forever and ever, amen.
I was chaplin once to the Bons Succor hospital in Tralee and i was impressed by their motto. To minister to the sick, the poor, the dying regardless of creed, race or social standing. A Cork protestant wrote in 1879: “if everyone had been able to approve the intelligent and devoted care given by the sisters in time of suffering as I have, then the sum which they need would not be difficult to collect”. In 1978 the sisters celebrated 100 years of service to Tralee. A Kerryman editorial noted; “the sisters of good help came to a poverty stricken town in 1878 to move among the sick. They have served the community well with their nursing skills and with a sympathy engendered by the holy life they lead”. The sisters may be few now but lay people can step into the breach. Lets pray that they’ll do so…Hail Mary