28th Sunday Ordinary Time Reflections Eye of A Needle

Scripture readings for Sunday's Mass are here

Second Reading Extract from Book of Hebrews..


 Various reflections on the readings from St Louis University Liturgy Centre here.

Fine reflection from Fr. John Predmore S.J. from here

 Edge of Enclosure reflections here.

My reflections from 2011 on the rich young man are here  and another 2011 related one is here.

A 2010 reflection is here.

Fr.Rolheiser has some reflections on the dangers of riches here.

This is an interesting link titled Trading In The Souls of Men : What Money Can't Buy.

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There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside and there is another kind where the things are behind the bars, and the man is outside.
 Upton Sinclair

I am ashamed to say that I see much of myself in this parable of the "rich young man" and this incisive poem by Walter Bruegemann reminds me too of the truth of how I am too often "tenured in my privilege."

The Noise of Politics

We watch as the jets fly in
     with the power people and
     the money people,
     the suits, the budgets, the billions.

We wonder about monetary policy
     because we are among the haves,
and about generosity
     because we care about the have-nots.

By slower modes we notice
   Lazarus and the poor arriving from Africa,
   and the beggars from Central Europe, and
   the throng of environmentalists
     with their vision of butterflies and oil
     of flowers and tanks
     of growing things and killing fields.

We wonder about peace and war,
     about ecology and development,
     about hope and entitlement.

We listen beyond jeering protesters and
     soaring jets and
   faintly we hear the mumbling of the crucified one,
   something about
     feeding the hungry
     and giving drink to the thirsty,
     about clothing the naked,
     and noticing the prisoners,
     more about the least and about holiness among them.

We are moved by the mumbles of the gospel,
   even while we are tenured in our privilege.

We are half ready to join the choir of hope,
half afraid things might change,
     and in a third half of our faith turning to you,
     and your outpouring love
     that works justice and
     that binds us each and all to one another.

So we pray amidst jeering protesters
     and soaring jets.

   Come by here and make new,
     even at some risk to our entitlements. 

Walter Brueggemann 
Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008.) 

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This article for the Gospel readings this week from America magazine on the question of material wealth and riches, makes the point that although Christ and his disciples were intinerants, poverty is a curse, so something that Jesus would hardly endorse per se, but instead, what Jesus was emphasising was that pursuing material wealth at the expense of spiritual wealth is always bad. 

It continues....

"We would do well to consider the aspiration of focusing on Jesus and his mission, as his disciples did who dropped everything to follow him unreservedly. We could consider that when our time, energy and even identity are tied up in pursuing material wealth, we have lost sight of the kingdom. 

Finally and most uncomfortably, we need to recognize that material wealth can insulate us from hearing the cry of the poor. 

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St. John Chrysostom pointed out: “It is madness to fill our wardrobes full of clothes and to regard with indifference a human being—made in the image and likeness of God—who is naked.”

Consider this challenge, inspired by Peter Singer: You just bought a new pair of suede boots for $200 and you are walking by a pond where a toddler is drowning. You would not hesitate to dash into the water to save the child, even though this would ruin your boots. 

A child is more important than boots! Now consider the moment just before buying the boots, knowing that those $200 could feed a starving child.

 Do you buy the boots, or do you give the money to a charity that feeds starving children?

Where does a poverty calculus like this stop? 
Would you continue to give your money to the point of starving yourself? 

Should you liquidate your children’s college tuition fund to feed more starving children? 

Without collapsing into neurotic absorption about possessions or unhealthy guilt in having them, we could still ask ourselves: 

How much is enough? Am I hearing the cry of the poor ?"


This article is worth reading to show why many people who operate in holding a 
" just world fallacy" end up undermining their empathy for the poor, less well off and disadvantaged.
Message of Benedict XVI for Lent 2012 on hearing the cry of the poor says :
 "We should never be incapable of 'showing mercy' towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor", and in September he turned his attention to the Letter of St. James, which inveighs “against the dishonest rich, who put their trust in riches accumulated by deceit. … The words of the Apostle James  while they warn against the vain desire for material wealth, are also a powerful call to use it in the perspective of solidarity and the common good, always acting with fairness and morality, at all levels”.

There is a lot of discussion these days about what  "true religion is" and where the focus of it should lie. Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI has a good article here that outlines what Jesus emphasised .

This is an extract below.

"Jesus is also clear, as were the great Jewish prophets, that, at a point, religion is about how we care for the poor, pure and simple. There is perhaps no more frightening text in scripture than Jesus' teaching on the last judgement in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 28. He tells that, on the last day, we will be judged by God on one basis: Did we care for the poor? Did we give bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked? Notice that there are no orthodoxy tests, no creedal formula to recite, no catechetical requirements to measure up to, nor even questions about private morality, only the question of how we treated the poor.

But there is still a further strand of teaching in Jesus that challenges even beyond the requirement of caring for the poor. He tells us, "Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate." True religion, for Jesus, is, at a point, about the size and quality of our hearts, about how wide or narrow they are, about how mellow or bitter they are, about how forgiving or angry they are, and about how much they can imitate God's love which goes out warmly and equally to all, to the bad as well as the good. The final challenge of Jesus is for each of us to have a heart that, like the father of the prodigal son and the older brother, can embrace both the weakness of one and the anger of the other. God's heart is not a ghetto, neither is heaven, and for us to go to heaven we need to have hearts that are not ghettos.

Perhaps this perspective can help us sort through some of the tensions we live in today as different groups claim one or the other of these emphases as the core of religion. Boundaries, identity, morality, liturgy, rubrics, are important, as is a non-negotiable commitment to the poor.

But, in the end, all of these have to be shaped by a heart that radiates God's all-embracing compassion, understanding, forgiveness, gentleness, warmth, and non-discriminating love. Otherwise it is an easy and logical step to bitterness, hatred, and violence - all done in the name of God and true religion."

                                                       The Cry of The Poor John Foley

The Light of The Love of the Lord- a lovely hymn by  Michael Joncas. 

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The Love of the Lord

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