Sunday Reflection for September 29, 2019 by Eleanor Rabnett

 

First Reading:  Amos 6.1a, 4-7

Second Reading:  1 timothy 6.11-16)

Gospel:  Luke 16.19-31

 

Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees and it is in that light that we come together today to pray, to give and to receive. It is in that light which we ‘break open’ and share with each other the Word of God.

The scripture readings that we have just listened to seem to illustrate how wealth, riches and excesses can cause us to become blind – blind to the reality around us. Both Amos and Luke show us how excesses can limit our ability to see the other who has little or nothing; how easy it can be to become focused on ourselves and our own ease in life – leaving no room for compassion and love.  The contrasts are startling – the image of the rich man in the chaos of hell and image of Lazarus standing peacefully with Abraham. And in the middle we have Paul addressing Timothy as a man of God and then going on to describe what that looks like and how we too can live as people of God.

I want to share a call to action from Pope Paul VI in his 1967 Encyclical “On the Development of Peoples”[1], and in the Section titled – A World of Free Men he stated: “But these efforts, as well as public and private allocations of gifts, loans and investments, are not enough. It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives, free from discrimination on account of race, religion or nationality, free from servitude to other men or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily. It involves building a human community where liberty is not an idle word, where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table.” His reference was this exact Gospel reading of that we have heard today.

Migrants and Refugees – peoples from all around the world who are searching for a better life to give their children – a life without violence and war, a life where there is enough food to eat and medical care when one becomes ill – a life where each person’s dignity is upheld – where they can find meaningful employment and be paid an honest day’s wage – and where they can clothe themselves and at night have a roof over their head.

And isn’t this exactly what all of us want from life – isn’t this exactly that all of us demand from life?

It does not say in the Gospel that the rich man was evil or bad or even cruel to Lazarus but rather that he never noticed Lazarus as a human being. His was the punishment of the man who never noticed. I think of all the poor and their many faces.  Have we become so used to seeing them that we no longer notice them?

Both the Gospel and Pope Paul’s encyclical remain relevant today – perhaps now more than ever before for our problems are global and affect all of us.

Pope Francis in Laudato Si wrote: “We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49) The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor – that is one and the same cry.

Our own ancestors were migrants and refugees – coming to a new land to find freedom from poverty, freedom of religion… Today the migrants and refugees come from all around the world. For a period of time they are in the news but are eventually dropped for greater and more sensational news; the migrants and refugees become forgotten and like so many others who are poor become unnoticeable.

And I think of our own poor, in the cities, on the lands across our country and throughout the north. We are a big country, a rich country.

The theologian John Shea writes: “There are no excuses. Something more is not needed. There is enough already.”[2]

When I was preparing this reflection there was a line from the Oblate Rule of Life which I found myself repeating over and over. It reads: “Our life in all its dimensions is a prayer that, in us and through us, God’s kingdom come.”[3]  Its essence is for all of us. We are all invited to be members of God’s kingdom pause and today we are reminded to make sure that no-one goes un-noticed.

 

[1] Populorum Progressio, March 1967

[2] John Shea: The Relentless  Widow – The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teacher p.277

[3] OMI Constitutions & Rules, Rome 2000 Constitution 32, p51