I was thinking, we’re having a rash of second collections lately. This week for the needs of the Canadian Church, then there will be World Mission Sunday and then a collection to help in our efforts to sponsor a family from Iraq and I’m sure there will be more.
Everywhere we look someone is in need. The plight of the people in Pakistan is beyond belief and the people of Haiti still have a long way to go to get back on their feet. If we allow it we can become numb to all these needs, we can become desensitized to the sufferings of others.
Today’s scripture warns us to avoid such a mentality. The prophet Amos goes after those who are at ease in Zion, people who enjoy the good life and are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph, are not grieved by the fact that they are violating their Jewish traditions of social justice. In last weeks reading Amos went after those who exploited and cheated others, those who measured out less and charged more.
We can’t say that the rich man in the gospel was an evil man. He never set the dogs on Lazarus, never drove him away from his door. His sin was that he never gave Lazarus a thought. The blight of this sore covered poor, starving man never touched his consciousness. For him that’s just the way life is, some have it made and some don’t. The idea of changing this situation never crossed his mind. He saw his good fortune as a sign he was blessed by God and Lazarus as a man cursed by God and who was he to upset the system. Moses and the prophets had all called for justice and care for the stranger, the widow, the orphan and those in need but all these calls for social justice made no impact on how he lived his life, did not open his eyes and heart to his brother Lazarus.
Recently there was a report that here in Canada four in ten persons is living on the edge. One setback like a delayed paycheck could have a devastating impact on their lives. Yet compared to 80% of the world’s population we live like kings. We’ve heard this reality before: the developed nations of the world make up 20% of the world’s population yet we use 80% of the earth’s resources. We can’t help but see ourselves as the person dressed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day. The clothes we wear and the food we eat, the gadgets we use come to us at the expense of a Lazarus working in a sweat shop somewhere in the world.
Recently I read this observation: ”we give golden parachutes to failed C.E.O.’s and nothing to workers laid off as their companies downsize or relocate to more profitable locales. The corporate head of Gap and banana republic made a cool $2 million last year. A woman in El Salvador who makes his clothes for us to wear made 56 cents an hour.” Think of the lives ruined by the financial collapse of banks and investment firms and pension funds. We still have those dressed in purple and linen and feast sumptuously every day who are convinced ‘greed is good.’
Everybody knows what the church teaches about sex but few know what the church teaches on social justice. When Pope John Paul 2 was in Canada he gave speech in Edmonton in which he said:
“In the light of Christ’s words, the poor South will judge the rich North. And the poor people and poor nations—poor in different ways, not only lacking food, but also deprived of freedom and other human rights—will judge those people who take these goods away from them, amassing to themselves the imperialistic monopoly of economic and political supremacy at the expense of others.”
Needless to say these words were not welcomed.
Readings like we’ve heard today are meant to make us uncomfortable. They challenge us to a holy discontent with our own lifestyles and are meant to sensitize us to the realities of the world in which we live, realities of the city in which we live.
Years ago Pope John 23rd had this to say “It is not simply a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not enough to combat destitution, urgent and necessary as this is. The point at issue is the establishment of a human society in which everyone, regardless of race, religion, or nationality, can live a truly human life free from bondage imposed by men, a society in which freedom is not an empty word, and where Lazarus the poor man can sit at the same table as the rich man.”
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we be graced with the gift to unstop our ears to hear today’s scripture and hear the cry of the poor. With today’s scripture in mind I ask you to think seriously about supporting our new parish venture of sponsoring a refugee family from Iraq as one way of sharing the blessings with which the good people of this parish have been blessed.