Sunday, October 30, 2016

Re-Paid at the Resurrection of the Righteous

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others. Philippians 2:3-4

“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14

Most merciful mother, you came to tell us of your compassion through St. Juan Diego, whom you called the littlest and dearest of your sons.  Give your strength and protection to all who live in poverty today, especially the people who are young, elderly and most vulnerable.  Plead for them to the Father, that they might experience the Divine Love tangibly in their daily lives, and that all who work for justice on behalf of the poor might grow in fortitude and humility.  In these ways, manifest your charity and concern in our lives, that the weeping of humanity may be heard, and all our suffering, pain, and misfortune may be filled with divine comfort and healing.   May we always know the peace of being in the cradle of your arms and bring us safely home to your son, Jesus.  Amen. (From a prayer card for CCHD)

Think of a time when you had trouble coordinating a date for dinner out with friends.  You carefully considered whom should be invited and went to great lengths to find a convenient time, place and guest list.  Take it to a higher level, and consider planning a banquet – like a wedding reception.  In three short years, Jesus did a lot of work at such banquets.

Today, the reading from Luke and its companion message from Paul’s letter sent to Philippi revolve around two themes we have explored repeatedly this year: wealth and food. Around these two themes, Jesus weaves another lesson in humility.

Wealth can sometimes be a troubling word.  For many, wealth equates with happiness.  Yet it only implies "prosperity in abundance of possessions or riches." Wealth comes into our vocabulary from the Middle English wele for "well-being” and is paired often with health (physical well-being).  There are many wealthy people who are not happy and many poor people who are very happy. 

We have both a sense of the individual well-being and the common well-being.  The readings today direct our focus to the common-weal.  “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” As Sr. Joan Chittister reminds us: “It is community that enables us both to live the Christian life and to learn from it.” The community (family, parish, classroom, workgroup, team, etc.) is the source of our growth, not the selfish ego.

Over and over, St. Luke tells us stories of Jesus upsetting the world order that people know: As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.  (Luke 12:29-31)

Jesus did not come to comfort the rich.  From the very outset of his public ministry, he laid out his manifesto for the powerless and the vulnerable: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) That Spirit makes all the difference in the eternal happiness of the poor and the torment of the rich.

What do you seek INSTEAD? Perhaps greater wealth equality as opposed to the wealth inequality that we have now?

The most visible indicator of wealth inequality in America today may be the Forbes magazine list of the nation’s 400 richest. In 1982, the “poorest” American listed on the first annual Forbes magazine list of America’s richest 400 had a net worth of $80 million. The average member of that first list had a net worth of $230 million. In 2015, rich Americans needed a net worth of $1.7 billion to enter the Forbes 400, and the average member held a net $5.8 billion, over 10 times the 1982 average after adjusting for inflation.[i]

The same site goes on to explain that the billionaires who make up the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans now have as much wealth as all African-American households, plus one-third of America’s Latino population, combined. In other words, just 400 extremely wealthy individuals have as much wealth as 16 million African-American households and 5 million Latino households.

Numerous sources show how the Great Recession (2008-2009) deepened the longstanding racial and ethnic wealth divide in the United States. The typical white family held a net worth six times greater than the typical black family at the end of the 20th century. That gap has now doubled. The wealth gap between white and Hispanic households has widened as well.

Supporting charities which address this inequity is one way we can show a preferential option for the poor.  In less than three weeks, parishes across the U.S. will take up the collection for the Campaign for Human Development ( The weekend of November 19-20, also is the Solemnity of Christ the King and the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

"The Year of Mercy, a time of extraordinary grace, is also a fitting time for the annual CCHD collection. The Mercy of Jesus is abiding and always urgent. CCHD sustains the Holy Father's initiative to bring the joy of the gospel to our brothers and sisters living on the margins of American life," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chair of the CCHD Subcommittee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

According to the USCCB, an estimated 43 million people live in poverty in the United States. This collection supports the work of groups that empower low-income people to participate in decisions that affect their lives and break the cycle of poverty. Many of the projects supported by CCHD embody the corporal works of mercy, including the protection of worker rights, expanding access to health care and reforming the criminal justice system.

The bishops’ website also explains that this national collection is the primary source of funding for the CCHD's anti-poverty grants and education programs aimed at providing fostering a culture of life and hope in communities across the nation. Twenty-five percent of funds collected remain in each diocese to support local projects.

Express your solidarity with the poor and support CCHD and its annual appeal.

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