The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20; Luke 6:17,20-26

There’s an old legend that goes something like this:

Moses was sitting outside his house one day, looking very sad.
The Lord happened by and said, “Moses, why are you so sad?”
Moses said, “It’s your people, Lord.”
“What about my people?” asked the Lord.
Moses replied, “They need better food, better clothes, and better shelter.”
The Lord said, “We can change that.”
Within months, the people had better food, better clothes, and better shelter. Everyone was filled with joy.

A few months later Moses was sitting outside his house again, looking very sad.
The Lord happened by and said, “What’s wrong, Moses? Why are you so sad?”
Moses said, “It’s your people, Lord. They are enjoying themselves so much that they no longer have time for the disabled, the lonely, and the elderly.“
And what is more, they no longer sit together outside under the starry skies at night and talk to one another about how good and merciful you are.

The Lord said, “That’s not good, Moses. What should we do?”
Moses said, “I think we should make the people poor again, as they used to be.”

THE THOUGHTS PRESENTED in today's readings, especially in the Gospel, are going to cause difficulties to some people, if not to most of us.

It is easy to just read or hear the words and we may even nod our heads in agreement, but actually putting them into practice is not something we would think of taking seriously. There is a real danger here of separating life and religious faith. It is nice to hear these things in church, but they are often aside once we get outside the church doors and back into "real" life.

The first thing to note in the Gospel is that the teaching of Jesus is addressed not just to his chosen disciples, but also to "a great crowd of people" from both Jewish and non-Jewish areas. This is to say that His teaching is for everybody and not just for a chosen elite. It is not a special "vocation" but a way of life for all.

At a first reading they completely fly in the face of the way of thinking with which we are surrounded and on which we have been brought up.

"Happy are you who are poor, hungry, weeping and those of you who are hated, driven out, abused, denounced." Who can take such recommendations seriously?

"Woe to you who are rich, filled, laughing and spoken well of." Are we not being constantly taught by our society and its means of communication that the ideal is to be rich, filled to overflowing, constantly enjoying ourselves and be looked up to and even envied by others? Are not money, status and power the gods we are daily urged to worship? Are they not the keys to happiness and success in life?
Can't I be a good Catholic and be rich and successful at the same time?

Jesus presents three examples.... about those who are materially poor, those who are sad, and those who are hungry. These people make up a scandalously large proportion of the world's population even as we enter a technically advanced 21st century. Things have not really changed much since Jesus' time, except that, on the one hand, the numbers are now much greater and that, on the other, we have more effective resources to solve the problem in our time .

We can even ask: “Is it a sin to be rich? Is it a crime to be wealthy? Is it scandalous to be full or laughing?” Why does Jesus go so far as to say: “Woe to you rich, woe to you who are satisfied now, woe to you who are laughing”?

I don’t think it’s a crime or a sin to be rich, wealthy or living in good conditions, but. as Cardinal Daaneels from Brussels says, there is a serious danger that richness, wealth and prosperity are causing two serious conditions: blindness and arrogance.

Here are a few facts and statistics from the book "Reconsidérer la richesse” written by Patrick Viveret :

Last year western countries spent 780 billion dollars for arms

In the European countries people spent 105 billion dollars for alcohol and 50 billion dollars for cigarettes while consumers in Europe and in the USA spend 15 billion dollars for perfume each year.

In the USA alone people spent 400 billion dollars for drugs - for narcotics and each year they spend 25 billion dollars for pet food.

At the same time, the world needs only 13 billion dollars to feed all the hungry of the world!
These statistics tell us that wealthy Christians in the USA are spending twice as much for pet food as the amount needed to feed the the hungry of the whole world.

Each year Europe expends 11 billion dollars for ice cream; half of this money would provide water for all who don’t have it right now.

To assure the most fundamental needs of food, water, school and basic medical care for all the poor in the whole world would, require 40 billion dollars. The wealthy developed world spends ten times more than that, 400 billion dollars each year on advertising and marketing alone!

I don’t accuse anybody, I don’t say that richness in itself is a crime or a sin, but I think that there is a real danger that wealth and prosperity may cause two serious conditions: blindness and arrogance.

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