Summary: Not to share one's wealth with the poor is stealing from them.

Thursday in the First Week in Course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

The two NT readings we have heard today are linked by a single notion expressed in the words “moved with pity.” Jesus looked on this poor leper and, in the Greek, became splagchnistheis. This is something we have all experienced. We come upon a particularly tragic scene and our gut is wrenched. We are moved physically by all the hormones that rush around in our body, prompted by our emotional state. It is, I think, the opposite of the attitude seen in the sinner in the reading from the letter to the Hebrews. There, the author quotes Psalm 95, where the people in the desert have hardened hearts, frozen hearts unable to follow the Lord’s command.

God’s innermost being was wrenched when the first humans, made in His own image and likeness, rebelled. We talk about the insults borne by the Sacred Heart of Jesus when we sin, when society rebels, as it is rebelling against the way the Creator has ordered marriage. The Father’s knee-jerk response, if we can speak like that, and Jesus’s, is to offer healing, if we’ll just admit our moral leprosy and repent and ask forgiveness. When we pound the nails into His hands and feet, His constant prayer is “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Today we continue with our consideration of Pope Francis’s first solo encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel.” We have been taking his universal letter as the backbone of these short homilies since mid-August of last year. Recently, we have been reading the Holy Father’s criticism of the consumerist attitude, that constantly piles up possessions and hardens its hearts against the cry of the poor and marginalized, who are unjustly treated and being pushed more and more to the economic sidelines.

He continues: “‘Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When [marketplace categories are the only criteria for goodness or usefulness], God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, [the Pope encourages] financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

He goes on: ‘A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders.’

He urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, ‘while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.’

The author of Hebrews was a master preacher. He reminds us that hard hearts, something common to all those who ignore the just requests of the poor, didn’t stop beating in the days of Moses, or Jesus, or Paul. All of us can get a little weary of the constant needs, for instance, of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We get a request from the SAMM shelter, or Seton Home, or Food for the Poor, and we ask either “when will it end” (answer–when Jesus returns in glory) or “why can’t they all get together and ask for just one check” (answer–when a new need stops cropping up because we have ignored it too long.) Hard-heart-disease should be a constant concern for the Christian. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to keep our gut movable, our compassion high, and our hearts soft to His promptings.

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